Indiana Pacers 105, Detroit Pistons 93
Last night’s win over Detroit was the best I’ve seen the Pacers play since … I don’t even know when. We really shouldn’t count the Nets or the Wolves since they are barely NBA franchises at this point, so disregarding those two “recent” wins, I think we might have to go all the way back to … the win over the Bobcats on December 16? If not that one, we’re talking Boston or the Warriors in early November. Honestly, factoring in that this was on the road, this might have been the best effort we’ve seen on both ends from Indiana for a full 48 minutes so far this whole season (that didn’t come against the Nets, I mean).
Generally, the ball movement and inside/outside attack was the key to the offense looking so good. They didn’t score a lot inside, but the post game from both Roy and Troy (wait … who?) was effective in forcing the Pistons to collapse a little, which gave the jump shooters a little more space to line em up. This was fantastic to watch and can hopefully travel with the team away from Detroit, particularly since the Pacers play the similarly bad Sixers tonight (at home) and then again on Monday (in Philly). It would be huge to get both those games, especially considering the Lakers and the Cavs both come to Conseco later in the week.
Here are some more specific thoughts.
- It’s crazy how much just some slightly above average jump shooting can do for this offense. The Pacers shot 47.4% (which with 9/25 from three equaled 53.2% eFG). Not earth-shattering numbers. Just pretty good. The debate over whether the team’s typical low-FG% numbers are a byproduct of a broken offense that can’t get any good shots or can be attributed to players just failing to make open shots is a larger one than I want to get into right now, but the fact is that if this team could just consistently make around 46% of its shots in any given game (the league average), they would have a chance to win much more often.
- Brandon Rush! Good stuff from the kid. I would love to see him use the dribble to get to the paint more often, but even if he is just playing decent defense and hitting spot-up threes, he’ll start deserving all these minutes he’s getting. He went 5/8 from beyond the arc last night overall and 4/6 from there in the first half. Plus he took a charge and blocked a shot. Very nice. More importantly, he has shot 23/35 (65.7%) from the floor in the last 5 games and 10/19 (52.6%) from three. And going back a little further, he’s shooting 47.0% and 44.3%, respectively, in the New Year. That will certainly work. Keep it up. From the AP recap:
“Brandon is starting to become very aggressive, and I’m pleased with the way he is playing,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said. “We’re 6-6 now in 2010 and we are looking for some consistency.”
- Danny was elegant for stretches last night and was particularly enjoyable to watch in the third quarter when he was getting all ornery while going at the Pistons Swedish rookie Jonas Jerebko. He only went 2/4 in the quarter but got to the line a ton, making 9/9 from the stripe while smack-talking the Swede the whole time. The Pistons announcer offered up this commentary: “Danny shooting 4 for 11 — and shooting off his mouth.” I went with this one.
- Troy got busy scoring in the post, which was both unusual and sweet, on the way to his 17th double-double of the year. 16 points on 11 shots along with 11 boards (of which 4 were offensive).
- Roy Hibbert got the Pacers going early, starting off his night by converting a nice hook shot on (I think) his first attempt on the block. He wasn’t a huge factor in this one statistically (although it would be amazing to see him have some more of these “quiet,” 6/9 shooting nights), but by going to him at the start, Indy forced Detroit to think about doubling and opened the perimeter for jumpers. He and Watson had a nice little entry pass/kick-out exchange for a jumper at one point to give the Pacers a bucket, and he and Price did the exact same thing late in the third. Price couldn’t convert on his 18-footer, but it was a good shot. That’s what this offense needs. If this was baseball, that inside/out stuff is the equivalent of “changing the batter’s eye-level.” It might not pay immediate dividends in terms of getting a strike, but it reminds the hitter that there are multiples locations they have to watch for. Let’s look for more of these “entry-pass/double-team/kick-out jumper” plays going forward. We haven’t seen much of it this year (at least not with Roy not being all awkward about it) and it would add a lot.
- Speaking of AJ Price, he’ll definitely be the starting point guard of this team before the year is over and probably should be tonight. Earl’s still playing fine so there’s probably no need to make the move immediately and risk pissing him off by taking the ball from him, but the offense is much more dynamic when AJ is out there. He moves quicker with the ball around the outside and gets into the paint much better. He misses some guys who are open still and obviously will continue to as a rookie. Last night, for example, he should have hit a flashing, calling-for-the-ball Roy with an entry pass on the block, but didn’t see it. But it was tough to be get mad about it because, half a second later, he made a nice, quick, two-dribble move into the free-throw-line area that drew a second defender and allowed him to whip a pass to a wide-open Brandon Rush in the corner. Boom baby. (I don’t like that saying, but seemed like it would be effective here.) Last year, guys like Jack and Marquis were often able to destroy the defense’s point of attack like that, but no one this year aside from Danny (rarely), MDJ (even more rarely) and TJ (in November) have been able to do that at all. AJ brings that. And NBA offenses need that — badly. It opens up everything and forces the other defenders to read, react and rotate. It’s infinitely easier to score against a reading, reacting and rotating defense. AJ has gotten 20+ minutes in all but 3 games in 2010. We should start seeing some 30+ nights pretty soon.
- Going 24/26 from the line is great. Danny’s 14/14 led that effort and Murphy was actually the only guy to miss one. (Two actually … he went 3/5 and everyone else went 21/21). It’s hard to get on a guy who is shooting 83% from the line, but Danny has the touch and ability to be closer to 90%. More nights like tonight, please.
- Let’s remember: Detroit really, really sucks.
Party Time in the Palace: By The Numbers
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