By Matthew Harrington
The enigmatic road trip continued for the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night when the host Indiana Pacers, owners of an NBA-best home record of 29-4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, narrowly snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat. Klay Thompson’s 25 points, including the game-winning jumper with .6 seconds remaining, willed the Warriors to a 98-96 decision over Indiana (46-14), owners of the top record in the association, despite Golden State blowing a 13-point lead with a half dozen minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Thompson rallied the Warriors (37-24) to the win with a 16 point fourth quarter when fellow guard Stephen Curry, the usual bell cow in the clutch for Golden State, went ice cold. Curry finished the night with 19 points, all scored in the first three quarters. Andrew Bogut and David Lee were hemmed in by the Pacers league-best defense for a combined 14 points and 11 rebounds. Pacers forward David West dropped a game-high 27 points while Paul George added 26 of his own. George completed the double-double with a game-best 12 rebounds.
Despite the Pacers topping practically every defensive metric available, the Warriors still connected on close to their season average in field goal percentage (45.5 percent), hitting 44 percent Tuesday on 37 makes out of 84 attempts. The Dubs hit exactly half of their shots from beyond the arc, going 10-for-20 from downtown and their bench outscored the Pacers reserves 34-11.
The Warriors took their first lead, 10-8, after Curry connected on a layup 4:15 into play before Paul George hit a three to restore the Indy edge. Led by a seven-point run from Curry, the Warriors closed out the final seven minutes of the first quarter outscoring Indiana 15-10, finding themselves up 25-21 after 12 minutes of play. The Warriors netted 23 second quarter points to the Pacers 21 to establish a 48-42 cushion at the half.
Indiana pulled within one, 51-50, just 2:18 into the second half and took their first lead since the first quarter two minutes later after Lance Stephenson hit a two-pointer with 4:32 of the clock and the scoreboard reading 56-54 Pacers. The Warriors closed out the final three minutes of the third on a 10-7 run to lead 73-70 three-fourths of the way through play.
The initial six minutes of the fourth and final frame were all Warriors, as they notched 19 points to the Pacers 9, but the home team held the guests to only two field goals in the final five minutes to draw even 96-96 after George hit his second of two free throws with just over a minute left. Klay Thompson’s buzzer beater, a turn-around jumper off a Draymond Green feed, would be the only basket made over the final minute of play, handing the Warriors their first triumph in Indiana since February of 2007.
With Tuesday’s win, the Warriors guarantee they will finish the second-longest road trip of the season going at least .500 after picking up wins in Brooklyn, Detroit and Indiana while falling to Chicago and Toronto. The Warriors can complete the road swing with a fourth win in a Wednesday night swing in Boston to complete the current six-game road set.