The Indiana Pacers required some late game heroics Sunday afternoon to knock off the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pacers watched an 11-point lead evaporate in the fourth but were able to execute down the stretch to come away with the 102-97 win.
Lance Stephenson hit a big three pointer to give the Pacers a six point lead 34 seconds left to play. The Pacers went 5-of-8 from the free throw line the rest of the way to seal up the victory.
Stephenson recorded another triple double this season. For a team that has been lacking confidence, it has never shown in the man who is called Born Ready. He had 17 points off 70-percent shooting, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds.
CJ Watson and the bench were the heroes of today’s game. Watson was exception scoring a season high 20 points off 6-for-10 shooting. Watson even closed out the game as Coach Frank Vogel opted to go with the hot hand (although Watson and George Hill saw the court late as the Pacers needed more free throw shooters to ice the game).
Luis Scola chipped in 10 points as the bench went on to score 41 points. A number we never thought we’d see from this collection of players. One concern would be the 11 turnovers by the reserves.
David West led the Pacers with 21 points off 9-for-11 shooting. The team shot an impressive 52.8-percent from the field Sunday night, but turnovers kept this game from being a full on blowout.
Paul George struggled with his shot early but managed to score 20 points. He also recorded a double-double with 12 rebounds.
While the win against a potential NBA Finals team is encouraging, the Pacers still have a number of issues to address. The most important of which is turnovers. Indiana had 23 turnovers Sunday. The Pacers seemed to be passing the ball too much and silly mistakes on the offensive end. Hill was the only player that didn’t record at least one turnover, but he was largely a non-factor.
Hill was once again a passive participant in the game, scoring just three points. He had just two assists and spent additional time on the bench due to foul trouble. The past two games he has been nearly completely absent from the stat sheet. The pacers can’t afford to have a non-factor at the point guard position.
Hill is a solid defender, but his offense has been severely lacking lately. He needs to attack the basket more and work harder to find the open man. No one will confuse him with Russell Westbrook, but he has shown the ability to have a positive impact at the offensive end before.
The final problem is Roy Hibbert. He has been awful for a month and a half now. He was fairly effective on the defensive end with a block and a steal to go along with six rebounds. Offensively, Hibbert was 0-for-9 from the field for zero points. His backup, Ian Mahinmi, had 11 points and five rebounds in six fewer minutes.
Hibbert has to find his shot before the playoffs. He needs to attack the basket and not settle for outside jumpers or baby hook shots. He’s 7-2, so dunking shouldn’t that hard for him and he has the size to back down pretty much anyone in the game. The Pacers play an inside out style and can’t have Hibbert bricking shot after shot off good looks.
The win puts the Pacers atop the Eastern Conference standings once again. The Pacers can clinch with a win on Wednesday at Orlando or with a loss by the Miami Heat.