The Indiana Pacers started the week with a heated matchup between Jimmy Butler and Paul George as the Chicago Bulls hosted the Pacers. Indiana was without George Hill and Rodney Stuckey so Joe Young made his debut in the rotation. In the opening quarter, the Pacers were slow to get out on the floor as they fell behind early. The Bulls scored the first seven points and led 16-5 early in the first quarter. The Pacers began to close the gap but still trailed after the first quarter, 31-21. The Pacers continued to get dominated in the paint, shot poorly, and turned the ball over too many times as the Bulls extended their lead to 14 midway through the second quarter. The Pacers did finish the quarter on a 10-4 run to close the deficit to 53-45 at halftime, but were -10 in paint scoring and were shooting only 38 percent with eight turnovers.
The second half saw a more aggressive defensive effort from both teams, as the Bulls owned the first half of the third quarter. Jimmy Butler led the charge as he scored eight points in the quarter. The Bulls opened a 15 point lead before the Pacers made their move to get back into the game. The trio of Monta Ellis, C.J. Miles, and Paul George scored 16 of the Pacers final 23 points of the quarter as they produced a 23-12 run, closing the gap to 79-75 going into the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter was close in score as the Pacers closed the deficit on a 7-2 run midway into the period, led by Paul George and his consistent play in the clutch. The game was tied 93-93 and was followed by many great defensive possessions. The Pacers made a great defensive play and had a chance to win the game, so naturally the ball came to Paul George guarded by Jimmy Butler. As George attempted a jumper to win the game, he appeared to be hit on the arm resulting in the short shot attempt, however, the officials didn’t see any contact and the Pacers fell, 96-95.
Considering the short-handed nature of the game, the Pacers put up a great effort, especially in the second half as they held the Bulls to 41 percent shooting and outrebounded them 50-48. The Pacers downfall was allowing the Bulls to attempt 32 free throws and losing the turnover battle 13-8 in favor of the Bulls. The Pacers were led by Paul George and Monta Ellis who combined to score 46 points on 18-of-40 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and 11 assists. The Pacers continued to prove that they can compete with the league’s best teams no matter who is on the floor. Indiana needed to get back on track and they were about to face the perfect team to do just that.
Next up for the Pacers were the winless Philadelphia 76ers, where they looked to get back on the winning track. The Pacers simply controlled the game throughout and outscored the Sixers by at least five in every quarter. The Pacers led 23-18 after the first and were led by C.J. Miles with 10 points in the first. In the second quarter, the Pacers continued that trend by playing great defense and forcing many turnovers - Indiana forced 18 turnovers in the first half. The game was moderately close toward the end of the quarter when Paul George scored seven-straight points to end the half for a 52-38 lead. Paul George and C.J. Miles led the team with 13 points each at the half as the Pacers were shooting 44 percent from the field.
In the second half, the Pacers continued to dominate from both ends, as they intended to put the game away quickly. Paul George scored 17 of the Pacers first 24 in the third, as they went on a 24-9 run to take a 76-47 lead with three minutes left in the third. The Pacers ended the third with a 84-62 lead. Indiana used reserves to close the game out in the fourth quarter. Chase Budinger and Glen Robinson III would lead the team at the end to secure a 112-85 victory. Paul George finished with a very impressive 34 points, eight rebounds, and five assists on 13-of-24 shooting in only three quarters of play. C.J. Miles finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting and Chase Budinger added 15 points in likely his best performance of the year to date. Indiana's defense shined as they forced 31 turnovers and had 18 steals. The 31 forced turnovers was the most by any team since the 1999-2000 season, according the ESPN.com.
The Pacers hoped to continue their great play against the Milwaukee Bucks at home and they did just that. To start the game, the Pacers came out of the gate a little slow as they were giving up too many rebounds, especially on the offensive glass. The Bucks jumped out to an early 11-6 lead thanks to good defensive pressure and four early turnovers by the Pacers in the first four minutes of the game. However, Indiana finished with a 22-14 run to end the first quarter and took a 28-25 lead. Paul George led the team with eight points in the opening period, but the Pacers continued to be sloppy with the ball and give up too many offensive rebounds.
The second quarter saw the Pacers jump out to an eight-point lead at 37-29, thanks to seven-straight points by Glenn Robinson III. Robinson continued to make great contributions for the second straight game. The Bucks rebounding continued to become an issue as they closed Indiana's lead to 55-51 at halftime. The Pacers had the lead but were playing poorly as the Bucks had 11 offensive rebounds and 30 points in the paint. If Indiana was going to pull away from the Bucks, they would have to secure the necessary rebounds and defend with a more aggressive tendency.
In the second half, fans saw a much more aggressive Pacers team as they simply dominated the second half. The Pacers scored the first eight points of the third quarter, six of which were by C.J. Miles, and continued to pull away from the Buck as they took at 63-51 lead. Indiana increased the lead to 90-67 as they put together a 19-4 run to end the quarter.
The fourth quarter saw more of the same from the reserves such as Glenn Robinson III, as he caught fire and scored 10 points in the quarter. The Pacers led by as many as 40 points as they coasted to a 123-86 victory. Paul George did not reach 26 points for the first time in nine games as he did not play the fourth quarter due to the large lead in the game. George did finish with 20 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, as he continued to thrive at involving his teammates. Robinson finished with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, continuing to improve and show he deserves a spot in the rotation. The Pacers forced 23 turnovers on 15 steals and recovered nicely on the boards as they only lost the rebounding battle by one rebound. The Pacers also shot over 51 percent and limited the Bucks to only 43 percent shooting.
Indiana finished at 2-1 for the week and further cemented their spot as a top-five defensive club. They now rank fourth in the NBA at 94.5 PPG and are second in the NBA in turnovers forced at 17.5 per game. They also allow the fifth-lowest three-point percentage at 31.2 percent. The Pacers are not only forcing many turnovers, but they are displaying a very strong half court defense that is difficult to score against. From an offensive standpoint, the Pacers are still improving some things, but are becoming very proficient as they are fourth in the NBA in three-point percentage at 38.8 percent. In the past, Pacers have been a strong defensive team with a slow pace and a low shooting efficiency, but now they are displaying their ability to run the court and shoot well from deep. If they can keep up their pace, they definitely have the ability to be a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference, (stats courtesy of Grant Afseth of VAVEL USA).
Paul George continues to be the hottest Pacer as he consistently reminds the NBA of his skills and repeatedly puts up MVP performances. George has averaged 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game on 46 percent shooting and 50 percent from three to go with two steals per game as well.
Most Efficient Pacer of the week:
C.J. Miles has put together three great performances for the week as he has been a great second scorer to go with Paul George. Miles put together games of 19, 20 and 21 points this week to average 20 points per game for the week on 50 percent shooting and also 50 percent on threes.
The Week Ahead:
The Pacers have three games this week again as they first head to the nation's capital to face the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, November 24th, then return home on Black Friday, November 27th to have a rematch against the Chicago Bulls to try and avenge a close defeat. The Pacers end the following week beginning a long West Coast trip starting with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, November 29th.
The Pacers will be close to full health this week as George Hill is expected to return and C.J. Miles is not expected to miss any time with his ankle injury. The Pacers are primed for a strong week as they face a Wizards team that is a little banged up as Bradley Beal is still working his way back from a minor shoulder injury he suffered two weeks ago. If no one else besides John Wall steps up, the Pacers defense may have another impressive outing by forcing turnovers. Indiana should be able to contain the perimeter but will have to focus on containing the glass against Marcin Gortat and Nene. The Pacers should do well enough to rebound and will pull away in the fourth quarter for a third straight victory.
The Pacers will have a similar game plan against the Chicago Bulls, but will have George Hill back in the lineup to help contain the guards of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. The Pacers will shoot at a better percentage and will get solid point guard play than what the Bulls will produce. The Pacers will execute better down the stretch and in the clutch as the Pacers win by less than three points in a close victory.
The Pacers start their long West Coast swing and will have a heavily favored matchup against the Lakers. The game will also mark the Pacers first matchup against former teammate, Roy Hibbert. The Lakers have a couple of strong and young players but they will not be able to match the overall talent or production that the Pacers can produce. One matchup to watch will be Paul George against his idol in Kobe Bryant. This may be one of the last times the two players go head-to-head and George will have his mark all over this game as he will have a career night against his childhood team. The Pacers will simply pull away in the second half and will win easily to get a good start on their first long road trip of the season.
Final prediction: 3-0