It wasn’t all good for Danny Granger as he entered Sacramento. With his hot Indiana Pacers, who were aiming for a 9-7 record, Granger hoped to lead his team towards a victory past the struggling Kings, who stand at 4-11. But it wasn’t all good for the franchise player. Granger was caught with the case of the flu before the game. Sitting their in the locker room, he wasn’t feeling well. His wife also had the flu. Nobody knew how he got it. But Granger had a guess.
“Maybe it’s the holidays,” he told the Associated Press.
It might have been. But last night’s game may have been a good start to get ready for the holidays, as the Pacers got an early Christmas-gift with a 107-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Granger got his early-gift, blasting out for a season-high 37 points along with seven rebounds and two assists. Granger was twelve-of-19 from the field along with ten-of-eleven from the free-throw line as Indiana improved to 9-7. Granger got really hot in the second half, and that is what helped get Indy past the Kings with Granger’s hot stroke in that half.
“They were getting me the ball in spots where I like it,” said Granger, who had twelve fourth-quarter points. “Once I got it going they kept calling plays for me.”
Indy is now 4-1 in their past five games, along with three road ones. Indy was just coming off a 95-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. With last night’s win in Sactown, Indy is now 3-0 against California teams, a start Indy would have never started with last season when they finished with a disappointing 32-50 record. Indy is now 5-2 on the road, much better than last season as they only won a total of nine games there. But Indy has definitely improved. But Jim O’Brien notes it didn’t happen just like that.
“This has been three years of hard work,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “This [turnaround] didn’t just all of a sudden happen.”
Beno Udrih, the back-up Kings’ guard, went out to lead the team with 24 points. But the Kings now have lost their fifth straight game and fall to 2-8 at home. DeMarcus Cousins played very well, having 20 points and eight rebounds, despite being kicked out of the team’s practice on Monday. Cousins has had some struggles and problems with the team, but he definitely showed up in last night’s loss. Tyreke Evans played well with 16 points and nine assists. However, what killed him was the six turnovers that he made, which also led to the loss. Cousins talked about being kicked out of practice to the press in the post-game press conference last night.
“I’m mad and I’m frustrated about losing,” Cousins said. “My own opinion is I think different strategies should be used in the game. But I was playing selfish and it [the practice incident] was a good lesson for me. I learned from that.”
Darren Collison had 17 points and six assists. When Francisco Garcia hit a three-pointer with 1:34 to go in the game, bringing the Kings back into the game now down 99-93 in regulation, Collison helped end the game with a floating two-pointer to put Indy up 101-93. With that shot, it ended the game. Roy Hibbert played great, with a lot of hustle and everything, putting 16 points and eight rebounds at the end. Solomon Jones played good, too, adding twelve points, but yet, he also had five fouls.
Granger got hot in the second quarter, too. Down 52-49 after a shot by Beno Udrih, Granger hit a three to tie the game up. Indy would open up the third quarter with a huge run, to put themselves up 69-54. Granger would play great, hitting a pair of three’s, including one with 7:25 left along with a foul, ending up with a four-point play. The lead would build up to 18 in the third, the highest lead in the game. Granger would score ten in the third, and the Pacers caused six turnovers on the Kings. At the fourth, Indy would cruise up to a 80-69 lead.
“We weren’t happy with the hustle stats at halftime,” O’Brien said. “We mentioned it to the guys. They are starting to take pride in their defense and they want to win. If you want to win badly enough you do things like that.”
Granger has continued to have success against Sacramento. Before the game, he had 33.7 points per game for his career versus Sactown. Looks like he brought the points-per-game average up now.
“Danny Granger caught fire, they took the game from us and after that we were playing catch up,” Evans said.
Coach Westphal talked more about Cousins missing the practice from Monday.
“DeMarcus isn’t the first player who has been dismissed from practice and he won’t be the last,” Westphal said. “There is certainly things that happen behind closed doors that I keep behind closed doors. There is no question that DeMarcus is a passionate player and he’s impatient to see himself where he thinks he can be and we’re anxious too.”
This was an awesome game for the Pacers. If they continue to play great like this, they are on their way to being one of the top six seeds in the NBA, besides the bottom-two like many predicted. But it was a bit ugly. With a few adjustments, they will be good to go. But the schedule is tight as they face the Utah Jazz tonight.
Many think it may be a schedule-loss, like the good folks at PacersDigest.com. I guess we’ll see. Let’s hope for the best.