On Friday night the Indiana Pacers were looking to wrap up a solid week at home. After their record third quarter performance against the Denver Nuggets earlier in the week, they welcomed the Houston Rockets to town, who are clearly better than their 1-4 record indicated before the tip.
The Rockets were without Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming, but former Indiana Pacer Brad Miller led the charge for the Rockets, as they defeated the Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse. Yao had suffered a sprained ankle earlier in the week, and would be out for the next week, at least. I was really looking forward to seeing the match up of he and Roy Hibbert on the inside, but we will have to wait until later in the season.
On Saturday night the team made the short trip to Cleveland, to face the rebuilding Cavaliers. After an even first half, the Pacers pulled away late, and evened up their record at 4-4. Danny Granger erupted with his largest point total of the season so far, putting in 34 points for the Blue and Gold.
Here are some of the observations I have made about the team over the past few days.
Pacers Lose Another Close One at Home
The Houston Rockets didn’t have their starting PG or starting Center, but they had enough to get a three point win Friday night in Indy. Former Pacer Brad Miller had 23 points to lead all scorers. Indiana’s leading scorer, James Posey, came off the bench to give the team life. Shane Battier played solid defense on Danny Granger all night, and forced him to give up the ball in the final seconds. Darren Collison was forced to shoot an off-balanced three pointer for the tie, that came up short.
Both teams shot the ball well, but the Rockets made their shots when they counted. That’s referred to as “clutch”. The Rockets were able to turn up the defensive pressure late in the game, and that was the difference. The loss put the Pacers back under .500, with a record of 3-4.
These Are the Games You Must Win
A healthy Houston Rockets team is clearly better than this Pacers squad, but with the Rockets on a tough East coast trip, and without Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming, the Pacers had to capitalize on this opportunity. Mission failed.
The scoring was more balanced than usual, which is a good thing in my opinion. Granger can’t be expected to lead the majority of the scoring every night. The emergence of Roy Hibbert inside, and the additions of Darren Collison and a healthy Mike Dunleavy should help ease the workload. Five Pacers players scored between 13 and 19 points, with James Posey leading the way off the bench. If they couldn’t beat this rockets team at home, how will they beat them in Houston when fully loaded?
Pacers Rebound at The Q
Not only did the Pacers get another road victory in the early season, but they beat a divisional opponent on the second half of a back-to-back. The Pacers and Cavs were all tied up at the half, but Indiana picked up the slack in the second half, leading by five after the third quarter, then pulling away in the fourth. The defense was fairly good, limiting the Cavs to just 85 points, and holding them to just two of 15 shooting from behind the arc.
The turnovers were down yet again (just 13 this game, 15 on Friday) and they had the slight edge in rebounding and assists. The ball movement was very good once again, not quite as good as what we saw in the Denver game, but still better than all of last year. They continued to shoot the ball well, 46% from the floor and 40% (10 of 25) from behind the arc. Probably the best stat of the night; Indiana was 100% (17 of 17) from the free throw line as a team. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Granger Leads the Way, Dunleavy Still Hot
Danny Granger had 22 points at the half, and picked up right where he left off to start the third quarter, hitting the first shot of the half, just seconds in. He finished with a season-high 34 points to lead all scorers. Even though Indiana only had three players in double figure scoring, it was enough to handle Cleveland on the road.
Roy Hibbert finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds and Mike Dunleavy added 20 points and five rebounds for the Blue and Gold. Dunleavy and Granger had nine of the Pacers’ ten three point field goals. The win put Indiana back at .500 with a record of 4-4. Tyler Hansbrough left with a sprained ankle in the first half, and never returned.
Rush and Dunleavy Make George the Odd Man Out?
It appears that the return of SG Brandon Rush has taken away all of the minutes that rookie Paul George has seen so far this year. Brandon played very well in his opening game of the season, and has been a little more consistent than what he has been known for. It was thought that his play would force Dunleavy to the bench, even sharing minutes with George, but Mike has certainly found his groove over the past few games. He is averaging 22 ppg over his last three games, including a total of 12 three point field goals over that three-game span. It looks like he isn’t ready to head to the bench anytime soon.
The important thing I take away from this situation is being careful not to hurt the confidence of the promising young rookie. George struggled in his first career NBA game, but found his groove over the next few games. He hasn’t played at all in the last two games, and they need to monitor him closely and gauge his response. There is nothing worse for your team than a rookie that loses confidence.
Going Back Home For Three More
This next week the Pacers will have three games at home. Conseco Fieldhouse has been busy this month, but the Pacers need to execute and capitalize on all of these home game opportunities. They are 2-2 at home right now, and they will welcome the Atlanta Hawks to town on Tuesday night. That game is set for a 7:00pm tip off.
Atlanta has one of the best starting lineups in the entire league in my opinion. Each position will present a match up problem for the Pacers, and they will need a good game plan and they must execute on the floor. After a tough test with the Hawks, the Pacers will face the L.A. Clippers on Thursday, before wrapping up the home stand with a fierce battle with the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.
I would like to think that the Pacers could manage at least one victory out of these three games. They will need to, because after these three home games, Indiana must travel to Miami to face LeBron, Wade, and Co. This is one of the toughest months on the schedule, but with all of these home games, they need to capitalize when they can.