Bankers Life Fieldhouse was filled with stars on Thursday night, at least as far as teams in Indiana go. While the Fieldhouse is certainly no Madison Square Garden or Staples Center, a couple of hometown heroes were present as the Indiana Pacers went up against the New York Knicks.
Reggie Miller returned to the Fieldhouse for the first time since being inducted into the Hall of Fame. While returning to announce the game for TNT, fans were ecstatic as he received a standing ovation before the game.
Chuck Pagano, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, also made an appearance at the game. The fans gave Pagano a warm welcome as well, as members of the Indianapolis community continue to support CHUCKSTRONG and Pagano's recovery from leukemia.
However, there was still a game played on Thursday.
The Pacers defeated the Knicks in a low-scoring affair by a score of 81-76. After struggling at the beginning of the season, they are beginning to find their identity. They are now riding a three-game win streak, and also winning five of their last six to put them at 22-14 on the year.
The game started out pretty ugly, with both teams shooting quite poorly. At the end of the first quarter, the Pacers were up 16-14. The game was on pace to only have 120 total points by both teams combined.
Luckily for the Pacers, the offense was able to get going a little bit more, as they were able to go up 39-34 at half. However, the Knicks were able to start a comeback, going up 60-58 at the end of the second quarter.
That's when the run began.
The Knicks went up 62-58, then the Pacers exploded. They were able to make an impressive 13-0 run in the fourth quarter in order to retake control of the game. The lead held, and the Pacers were able to come up with another victory at home.
The win at home marks their winning their ninth straight at Bankers Life, and puts them at 14-3 at home on the year. The "Gold Swagger" seems to be strong in Indianapolis, and the home-court advantage appears to be true in the case of the Pacers.
Paul George was the leading scorer for the Pacers. After a rough first half, George was showed that he can be the main scorer for this defensive-minded team. He had 24 points on the game, and was also able to grab 11 rebounds, five assists and an impressive six steals.
George was able to take control of the game when the Pacers needed it. During the big run, George had seven unanswered points. He was also only one of two Pacers players to score in double figures.
The only other player in double figures was Ian Mahinmi. After Hibbert had to leave the game with back spasms, Mahinmi was asked to get more minutes than he was used to. He played 20 minutes for the Pacers and was a big reason they were able to seal the game late.
Mahinmi played big in the fourth quarter. He had 13 points for the night, making six of his seven shots. His aggressiveness underneath the basket got him some good looks, and he was even able to convert an and-one.
The Pacers are heating up at the right times. As the season hits the halfway mark, the Pacers will now be able to start looking for favorable positioning in the playoffs. While the Pacers appear to be one of the best defensive teams, their offense is beginning to come around as well.
The Pacers will play their next game on Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats. If they can win another game at home, this team will be able to officially call themselves "scorching" at home.