Saturday, March 30th, 2013 at 10:00 PM EDT at US Airways Center
Game Rewind: IND 112, PHO 104
Scott Agness | March 31, 2013, 1:31 AM EDT
This was a game the Pacers could have overlooked. They had already won two big road games in Houston and Dallas, plus they were looking forward to getting revenge on the Clippers on Monday. The Phoenix Suns, who are likely more interested in their vacation plans than the game plan, sit at the very bottom of Western Conference standings.
Instead, the Pacers (47-27) took the lead in the middle of the first quarter and despite multiple valiant efforts by the Suns (23-51), they held on for a 112-104 win, their fourth in a row. All five starters scored at least 14 points, led by 25 from Paul George, whose family flew in from California to watch the All-Star play.
“We’re a team that’s filled with leaders,” Roy Hibbert said. “Paul (George) took over at moments. David (West) came in a closed the game out. George (Hill) made some spectacular plays and Lance (Stephenson) is our bulldog. We closed the game strong.”
From the tip, it was clear that Phoenix, now losers of six-straight, wasn’t going to just hand over a win. The Pacers quickly got behind 10-4 but then went on a 19-5 run - led by Roy Hibbert, who scored 12 in the opening quarter – to go ahead six after 12 minutes of play.
Instead of putting this one away early, the Pacers allowed the Suns to hang around in the first half by missing free throws. The blue and gold did an excellent job of getting to the line – they attempted nearly four times as many free throws than the Suns through two quarters – but they misfired on nine of them. The Suns got within three as the Pacers also missed nine of their first ten field goals in the second. Lance Stephenson gave the Pacers a big lift by ending the drought with three straight field goals. He had 11 points in the period and the Pacers were in front 57-49.
With great energy to start the second half, the Suns did a good job of getting past their defender and into the lane. A 10-3 run to start the third trimmed Indiana’s advantage to just one, and it would remain close until the Pacers ran off an 11-2 spurt for their first double digit lead.
As they did each quarter, the Suns started strong and cut the deficit to three with a 9-2 run to start the fourth. Former Pacers player Jermaine O’Neal, who averages just eight points per game, scored 11 in the final quarter and it was his and-1 play the made it 102-101 with 3:10 remaining.
From there, the Pacers would score 10 of the game's final 13 points, six coming at the charity stripe, to capture their seventh win in their last eight games.
“Sometimes you just gotta win,” Frank Vogel said postgame. “It’s not always going to be a 25-point road win. Any win on the road is a good win. I’m happy to get out of here with a win.”
Stephenson deserves praise for his offensive production – 16 points and three assists – but he should also be credited for making a huge defensive play that seemingly put the game away. After George Hill missed a deep three, Goran Dragic, who led the Suns with 21 points, grabbed the rebound and was headed for the basket when Stephenson came from behind and stole the ball. Dragic then fouled Stephenson, his sixth, with 70 seconds to go and Stephenson’s free throw stretched the Pacers’ lead to six.
“We stuck together,” said Paul George. “We made big plays. Made some huge defensive stops. That’s really been the key to our success on this trip.”
The win does a number of things for the Pacers. They’ve won seven of their last eight games. They are now 3-0 on this four-game trip away from Indy, which ends Monday in L.A. (against the Clippers). Their magic number to clinch the Central Division title is three (any combination of Pacers wins and Chicago losses). And, with four road games remaining, the Pacers have a very good chance of finishing with a plus-.500 road record – a goal for the team before the season began.
Inside the Numbers
Paul George led all scorers with 25 points and he closes the month of March with seven (of 16 games) 20-plus point games. With 20 points and seven rebounds, Roy Hibbert scored in double figures for the sixth-consecutive game but was just three caroms shy of his fifth-straight double-double.
Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who had 21 points, nine assists and five turnovers, fouled out before he could assist on another basket to record his sixth-straight double-double. Markieef Morris finished with 18 points, his third-highest output of the season.
The Pacers are now 7-3 when all five starters finish in double figures, and 10-1 when recording at least 10 steals.
Phoenix assisted on 30-of-40 field goals.
“[Shooting free throws] is part of our style of play. We try to pound it inside and force teams to foul us if they don’t have great low-post defenders, and then we pound the glass. A lot of fouls came on that as well but we have ones, twos, and threes that are good attackers as well. They challenged defenders to not put their hands on us.” – Frank Vogel
“We knew we were playing against a hungry team. We learned from our losses in the past. We didn’t try to force anything, took good shots, and played D towards the end of the game.” – Roy Hibbert
“We really got the whole DNA and the makeup to really make a great run. We’re big inside. We got guys that can create and make shots. Our defense is amazing. If we continue to play at this tempo and continue to run and continue to stay consistent defensively, we should be alright.” – Paul George
Stat of the Game
The Pacers struggled at the line in the first half, hitting just 13-of-22, but they knocked down all but three, 21-of-24, in the second half. That was important because the Suns were 18-of-19.
- The Pacers swept the season series (2-0) after losing in each of the last three meetings.
- Jermaine O’Neal was assessed a technical foul in the first quarter, his 13th of the season.
- Gerald Green was inactive with an upper respiratory infection.
- Both teams wore Hardwood Classic uniforms – the Pacers sported the pinstripes.
- With the Hansbrough brothers and Morris twins on the Pacers and Suns, respectively, it was the first time in NBA history both teams had a pair of siblings on roster.
The Pacers take on the Clippers in Los Angeles on Monday at 10:30 PM EST.
Next Home Game
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