Post-Game Grades: Pacers Hold on to Beat Utah, Perhaps Showing Us What Their DNA Is Made Of

Indiana was running Utah out the damn gym, up 21 points in the middle of the third quarter. Then a funny thing happend on the way to a blowout: the Jazz went on a 25-to-4 run as the Pacers missed 10 straight field goals. Just like that, the game was tied, and it looked like Frank Vogel might have a Sacto Part Deux on his hands.

It was quite the shame, too. Roy Hibbert and especially Darren Collison had been dynamite all night. They combined for 29 first-half points on 13-for-16 shooting and DC surpassed his season-high in scoring when he reached 21 points mid-way through the third quarter. (He finished with 25.)

Not to worry. Not long after the Pacers coughed up the lead and couldn’t get anything going, Danny Granger took over. He made 5 of his 6 shots in the fourth quarter on the way to 12 points in the final period. It was more than that though. He played top-notch defense late, running timely double teams at the Jazz post players and not forcing anything on offense. The key play of the game came on a Granger drive with just over 3 minutes to play and the teams knotted at 95.

Danny made his way into the paint and looked poised to elevate for the same off-balance, in-traffic 6-footer he has been bricking all season. Instead, he crouched, gathered and kicked it out to a pretty-open Collison on the right wing. The defense, which had collapsed on Granger’s penetration, ran out at DC, who calmly swung the ball to a wide-open Paul George at the top of the key. All net. Indiana took a 98-95 lead they would never relinquish.

I don’t want to overstate one pass, but it seemed like a big moment in this season for the Pacers captain. Granger missed all 6 of his first-half shots. He didn’t look any better in the third quarter. After the game, Mike Wells reported that Danny told him he took sleeping pills on Monday and still felt groggy throughout the game before perking up in the fourth. Regardless, he was clearly feeling it at the time of his critical pass and had hit his last 4 shots in the past 4 minutes, three of which were mid-range jumpers that didn’t so much as touch the iron.

But rather than putting up a shot you know he wanted to take (shooters gonna shoot), he made the right play. A while back, after a win in Boston in which he passed up an even more delectable shot for him — an open three — to pass the rock over to a more-open George Hill, he told me that “whoever has it going, that’s where we’re going.”

He meant that the Pacers have so many weapons that, whoever is hot, that will be the guy who gets the ball. Well, tonight, in the fourth quarter, when the rest of his team was letting the Jazz storm back into this game and nearly win one on Indiana’s home court, Granger was the one who had it going. He had every right to take that shot — because he was on fire, because he was the only one really getting anything going in he fourth and because he had earned an attempt by penetrating into the paint on that play.

Instead, he kicked it out.

So perhaps he needs to revise his little slogan. Maybe from now on it should be: whoever is open, that’s where we’re going. With team-wide ball movement focused on that goal — like they displayed in the second half against the Mavericks, for example — the Pacers truly do look like one of the best teams in the league. We saw plenty of that tonight. Until we didn’t. But when it really mattered, and the team needed to close out a team that made a game out of one that should have been over, they got back to it. Increasingly, that ball movement and instinct to find the open player is beginning to look like it’s ingrained in this team’s DNA.

Here is how each guy played individually tonight. Agree? Disagree? Express your thoughts below in the comments or yell at me (@8pts9secs) or Tim (@TimDonahue8p9s) on Twitter.

David West - 30 MIN | 3-9 FG | 6 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS
Nothing standout but had 2 hoops as the Pacers started pulling away in the 2nd half. Was a good decoy in the pick-and-roll.
Danny Granger - 36 MIN | 6-14 FG | 5 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS
MVP of the game with 12 pts in the 4th on 5-for-6 shooting while playing elite defense late and making the pass of the game on a kickout that led to the go-ahead-for-good George trey.
Roy Hibbert - 35 MIN | 7-13 FG | 10 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS
The Jazz had absolutely no defense for the Big Hoss tonight, who notched a double-double and sent back 4 Utah shots.
Darren Collison - 36 MIN | 10-14 FG | 4 REB | 5 AST | 25 PTS
Despite the Pacers nearly giving this one away and Granger taking over late, this is one DC game nobody should forget. Made excellent decisions all game on the way to a season-high 25 pts.
Paul George – 29 MIN | 5-10 FG | 5 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS
“RT @8pts9secs The way Paul George knifes through traffic sometimes and—especially—slithers around screens, I swear his natural state is gaseous.”

Dahntay Jones - 13 MIN | 1-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 3 PTS
On the one hand, missed 5 shots. On the other hand, had a sweet and-one. On the other other hand, had some gross isolation plays.
Louis Amundson – 12 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 PTS
Looked a lot like Lou Amundson out there.
A.J. Price – 12 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS
Had back-to-back inexplicable turnovers when he straight handed the ball to the Utah for a breakaway layup and followed that up with a back-court travel for no reason.
Tyler Hansbrough – 19 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS
Stuck some jumpers and got a sweet assist on that aforementioned Dahntay 3-point play. Rebounded.
Lance Stephenson – 18 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-4 FT | 1 AST | 8 PTS
Looked fantastic scoring in the paint. Now, make a FT.

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Tags: Post-Game Grades Utah Jazz

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