The Pacers were able to defeat their in-conference rival the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night 80-76. The win puts the Pacers at 9-9 on the season.
The win is a good sign for the Pacers, indicating that they might be turning it back around after a rough start to the year. After starting the year 3-6, they have now won six of their last nine games to put them back at even for the year.
The two teams have had similar seasons. Both have been without their best players, Danny Granger and Derrick Rose, since the season began, and now both are at .500 for the season.
What makes this a big win for the Pacers is that they were able to stop a team from winning a third straight game. The Bulls were beginning to figure out how to adjust without Rose, and Indiana was able to beat them when they were warming up.
Along with stopping them while they were heating up, the win moved the Pacers on top of their division. While it is still early in the year, being at the top at any point is a good sign. With a team that many were expecting to stay flat until Granger returned, they have surprised people so far.
What was even better to see from the win was another big performance out of Paul George. With many expecting George to carry the load with Granger absent, he hasn't been as productive as critics would like. While their opinions might not change from a single game, George still stepped up big for the Pacers Tuesday night.
George scored 34 points against the Bulls, his second highest point total this year. He was able to shoot 56 percent from the field, an impressive number for the young player. Along with a big night scoring, George also contributed with nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and three steals. With one of his biggest performances on the year, it looks like George is beginning to embrace the role of a scorer.
With a big win against a rival team, the Pacers should feel good about the rest of the year. While Granger isn't expected back soon, the Pacers can believe that they can still make an early playoff push without him.