DALLAS — The Indiana Pacers might be missing the soul of their team with multiple starters out nursing injuries, but they keep showing they still have plenty of heart.
Guard Donald Sloan, a Dallas native, scored a game-high 29 points to lead the Pacers to a gutsy 111-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night at American Airlines Center.
The Pacers entered the game averaging 20 fewer points per game than the high-octane Mavs, the league’s highest-scoring team at 109.9 per contest. However, it was Indiana’s offense that stole the show, with Sloan’s aggressiveness and dead-eye 3-point shooting fueling two 30-point quarters.
Indiana led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter and then survived down the stretch with clutch defensive possessions that kept Dallas scoreless for more than seven minutes.
“I knew going in that there would be more shots coming my way,” Sloan said. “Also, we played a bit faster, so there would be a lot of shots going up a bit quicker. I kind of took that kind of full stride going into the game. I knew getting a few more shots this game I had to knock them down.”
Sloan is taking advantage of point guard George Hill’s injury absence, and he was fantastic again against Dallas, draining 10 of 14 shots, including three of four from beyond the arc. He also dished out five assists and committed just one turnover in 38 minutes.
“It must be because he’s back in Dallas,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel joked. “No, he’s been showing that all year. He’s been our starting point guard and a big reason we’ve been able to win some games and weather a storm in this stretch.”
Even with Sloan’s stellar play of late, it didn’t seem a fair matchup against the Mavs on their home floor. The Pacers on Monday introduced a starting lineup without a single player who started in Game 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.
Center Roy Hibbert sprained his ankle in Saturday’s loss at Phoenix and joined Hill and forward David West, who has yet to play this season due to a sprained ankle, on the inactive list. All-Star forward Paul George is likely out for the season with a broken leg sustained during a Team USA practice during the summer. Guard Lance Stephenson joined the Charlotte Hornets as a free agent.
Still, the Pacers (6-8) managed to win for the fifth time in seven games after starting the season 1-6. Dallas (10-5) lost consecutive games for the first time this season after winning six in a row.
Indiana, which possesses one of the worst offenses in the league, methodically built a 55-50 halftime lead while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 53.8 percent (seven of 13) from beyond the arc.
“Poor,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said when asked about his team’s approach to defense. “We got outscored in every single quarter. That’s a demolition. It was a physical demolition. We’re not the most physical team in terms of our body types, but we’ve got to be real tough mentally, and Indiana just played a great game. We have to give them a lot of credit. They played a first-class, hard-nosed, mistake-free game, and they deserved to win. We did not meet the challenge. It’s obviously disappointing.”
In the third quarter, Dallas crept within one point several times, but the blue-collar Pacers just kept grinding away at both ends. Indiana turned a steal into two Sloan free throws for a 73-66 lead with 4:52 to go in the third.
In the fourth quarter, forward Damjan Rudez corralled a long rebound, fired an uncontested 3-pointer and drilled it, giving Indiana its biggest lead at 98-86 advantage with 8:27 to go.
“I thought we scrapped and clawed and showed a toughness out there,” Vogel said. “But what I’m most impressed with our guys tonight is our offensive confidence. We keep talking about, ‘We’ve got to execute.’ OK, but you’ve got to have confidence to make big shots, and our guys made big shot after big shot most of the night, and I’m real proud of all of them.”
Even so, the bunch of Pacers players unaccustomed to playing crunch-time minutes hit a rough patch in the fourth quarter.
The Mavs scored seven consecutive points to cut the deficit to 98-93. Forward Solomon Hill finally ended an Indiana scoring drought that lasted more than four minutes with a pair of free throws, and then Sloan hit the dagger. A loose ball came to him and he buried the 3, Pacers’ 13th long ball on 26 attempts.
“Just a bad loss,” Mavs forward Chandler Parsons said. “We had a short-handed team at home. With what our schedule is looking like, we have to take advantage of nights like this.
“There’s no way around it, it’s an embarrassing loss, we have no room for this, especially in the Western Conference, how tight everything is. There is no excuse for this, we have to come out and play harder, and we can’t allow a team like this to come into our place and beat us.”
All five Indiana starters scored in double figures. Forward Luis Scola had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Rodney Stuckey and Solomon Hill scored 12 points, and center Ian Mahinmi had 10 points despite missing six consecutive free throws late in the fourth quarter.
Rudez contributed 11 points off the bench, making four of five shots, and forward Chris Copeland also had 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
Guard Monta Ellis led Dallas with 24 points, but he committed five turnovers, including a couple of killers as the Mavs tried to rally late in the fourth. Forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 22 points, Parsons had 16 and forward Brandan Wright came off the bench to score 13 points.
NOTES: Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki passed Oscar Robertson (9,508) for 16th place on the NBA’s all-time field goals made list with a 17-foot jumper in the first quarter. Nowitzki, who finished 9-for-17 from the floor, now has 9,514 career field goals … Pacers G Rodney Stuckey (left wrist) was cleared to play after going through the team’s shootaround without any problems. … Indiana G C.J. Miles (sore right calf) was cleared to play, and he scored six points in 17 minutes. … Mavs G Raymond Felton was available for the first time this season but didn’t play. He recovered from a high ankle sprain suffered early in the preseason and has completed his four-game suspension stemming from a guilty plea to gun charges last year while with the Knicks. … Dallas plays host to the New York Knicks on Wednesday. Indiana plays at San Antonio on Wednesday.
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