Note: 8p9s welcomes back Alex Yovanovich, who was gracious enough to recap last night’s win over the T-Wolves. We’re very pleased to tell you that we hope to see more contributions from Alex through the rest of the season, the playoffs (fingers crossed), and beyond.
If you had told me a few weeks ago that A.J. Price and Dahntay Jones were going to score the first 16 points of the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves, I would have thought you were crazy. I would have thought you were a complete lunatic if you had told me Jones would end up scoring 19 points in the quarter for your Indiana Pacers.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened. Jones managed to top off his great night by putting the brakes on a solid game by Timberwolves guard Wayne Ellington with some really tight defense at the end of the game.
That’s a Reggie Miller-like virtuoso performance by a Pacers shooting guard. Not only was Jones the hero of the night, but he finished the game strong. For a team desperately in need of a closer, Jones played that role on Friday night.
What makes this performance more amazing is that the Pacers were trailing by seven points after three and looked really shaky. That’s when Jones donned his red cape and came to the rescue. A night like this makes you wonder if the Pacers will decide to let Brandon Rush sit on the bench for awhile. By the time the game was over the Pacers had outscored the Timberwolves 33-15 in the final 12 minutes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect any more 19-point quarters from Jones. It was only a few days ago that he was the goat for being unable to inbound the ball against Miami in the waning seconds. You’ve got to give him all the credit in the world for bouncing back from that disappointment.
Everyone who saw Jones as the hero coming before this game, raise your hand.
Frank Vogel looks like a genius for making the move to Jones. There is almost no one who would have thought that inserting him into the lineup was a recipe for success. Vogel did. In fact, he’s made all the right moves so far.
Yes, the schedule has been favorable. Yes, the schedule will get tougher.
Could this team have gone 6-1 in this stretch with Jim O’Brien? I say no way, no how.
Vogel is 6-1, but probably should be 7-0 because his team outplayed Miami in their lone loss and still had a chance to win it at the end.
Don’t misunderstand. All was not wine and roses coming out of this game. There are some things that may be indicators of problems to come against better teams.
For the first three quarters of this game the Pacers played pathetic defense. There were easy, uncontested shots all over the place for the Timberwolves. The defensive tone only changed in the fourth quarter when Price and Jones put the clamps on the Timberwolves easy buckets.
By the way, Kevin Love is a load. Seeing him play reminds you of how far the Pacers have to go at power forward. Let’s face it, Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough are both really backups. I expect this position to be a priority in free agency during the Summer.
In spite of what I just said, McRoberts should get a lot of credit for keeping the Pacers from getting blown out in the middle of the third quarter as he went on a bit of a scoring tear. He really is getting the most of his talent this year. He will always be a limited scorer, but he can contribute if used the right way.
Meanwhile, Hansbrough needs to spend as much time as possible practicing 15-20 foot jumpers. With his propensity for getting to the foul line he could be a much more consistent scorer if he can develop his jump shot. It’s easy to see that he should be a double figure scorer on a nightly basis. He may develop into a solid starter, but I don’t see that happening until his jump shot can be counted on.
Seeing Kevin Love dominate inside also reminds you of how far the Pacers have to go at center. Is it just me or does Roy Hibbert miss more bunnies than any other center in the league? Hibbert needs to toughen up. He followed a really nice 29-point performance with six points against Minnesota. That’s just not going to cut it when you are one of the team’s core players.
Mike Dunleavy scored 14 points in a little more than four minutes at the start of the game. A stretch like this makes you understand why Dunleavy was the number three pick in the 2002 draft. Unfortunately, the next 44 minutes make you remember why nobody likes his contract and he will likely call a new city home next season.
Paul George continues to impress. He had a really nice three-pointer to end the first quarter. The rookie also helped McRoberts keep the Pacers in the game in the middle of third quarter by scoring a few buckets. The Pacers are keeping their fingers crossed that George continues his progress. That means they won’t have to spend money on a starting shooting guard in the offseason.
Danny Granger was solid with a quiet 19-point night. He’s not a superstar, but he’s the best player on this team right now. Better yet, he seems to have completely bought in to Vogel and the rest of the team has followed his lead.
In the end, beating the Timberwolves helped cap a really nice stretch has given the Pacers some breathing room. They are now three games up in the loss column over Charlotte. With their upcoming March schedule the Pacers will likely need all the space they can get.