Post-Game Grades: Pacers Beat the Hornets in OT to Continue Righting the Ship

The good news is that Pacers are now 2-0 in overtime games this season. The bad news is that New Orleans is not a super talented team but still managed to dominate offensively and basically control the contest for most of regulation on Indiana’s home floor. But Monty Williams has this hodge-podge roster playing hard and executing and the fact Frank Vogel’s squad should be applauded for its ability to withstand a fantastic effort by former-Pacer Jarrett Jack (19 pts, 10 dimes, 5 boards off the bench), a hot shooting night by former-good-shooter Trever Ariza (21 pts, 3 three-pointers) and a clutch scoring barrage by former Mexican professional league player Gustavo Ayon (scored 6 of his team’s final 8 points in regulation).

More than anything, this win should help out the team psychologically. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no Sigmund Freud. But this team had to be getting a little down on itself after coughing up 5 straight losses. They had started the year scorching the earth wherever they played, winning on the road as an unsustainable rate in gyms located in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Boston, among others. They were 16-6 when they woke up on February 4 and analysts were starting to believe that this team might actually have a shot at entering the playoffs as the third or fourth best team in the East.

Eleven days later, following a straight blow-out loss to Miami and an even-worse defeat in Cleveland, they were 17-12 and starting to look more like the 2010-11 team that started off so hot only to fall apart.

For many players, the upcoming All-Star break has been marked on the calendar as a welcome respite from this brutal, compressed schedule. I’m sure that’s the case for at least a few Pacers. But sitting at the low point of their season, with only three games left before the year’s mid-point, any further stumbles could have been potentially long-lasting. It’s one thing to drop 5 in a row during this schedule. But to do that and then drop a game to New Orleans, without Eric Gordon, at home would not be the best thing to have floating around your mind during the last five-day break you will have until, hopefully, late-May.

So it’s big that the Pacers destroyed the laughingstock Bobcats the other night and then took care of business last night against the Hornets. They face Charlotte again tonight and should, one would hope, make it four three straight wins headed into the break. And that’s key not just from a psychological standpoint. It will likely factor into the final Eastern Conference playoff seeding.

After the All-Star Game, the Pacers have two more very winnable game against Golden State and in New Orleans. But then it gets very rough. Check out the below, nine-game stretch from March 5 to March 20. Yikes.

Atlanta and Portland at home aren’t devastating but both are opponents that its very easy to lose to even if you’re a good team. Rose will be back — and angry — for the Bulls game. Miami is Miami. The Knicks have the Second Coming. Philly has the best defense in the NBA. And Lob Angeles is downright scary at this point.

The Pacers would be well-advised to be 23-12 when this gauntlet begins. They had to win last night to get there. And they still have to win their next three. All teams are going to face some adversity and stumble at times during this season’s brutal schedule. But how they respond is critical. For Indy, that means digging out of the hole — standings-wise and mentally — that a 5-game losing streak created by going on a 6-game winning streak.

Three down. Three more to go.

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 - 39 MIN | 6-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS
Filled up the stat sheet without dominating the ball — something that is making him increasingly valuable to this offense. Stuck a pick-and-pop jumper to put his team back up 3 with 29 secs left in regulation.
Danny Granger - 41 MIN | 4-14 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS
Missed all his shots in the first half and was even missing FTs. But made up for it when it mattered, getting to the rim twice to help put Indy up 5 late in regulation, then hitting a 3 to launch and OT rout.
Roy Hibbert - 11-17 FG | 8-12 FT | 13 REB (7 ORB) | 3 BLK | 30 PTS
Near-flawless game for the big fella, who dropped a career-high 30 points on just 17 shots. The 12 FTAs might be even more encouraging. When this aggressive, he puts so much pressure on the opposing D.
Darren Collison – 39 MIN | 8-11 FG | 8 REB | 6 AST | 1 TO | 18 PTS
Great line and it’s hard to fault his running of the offense for the Pacers trailing so often. It was the D that was to blame. (Although he did have something to do with that. See: Jarrett Jack’s line.)
Paul George - 44 MIN | 9-20 FG | 6 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 20 PTS
Couldn’t find his stroke from deep despite leading the team in shots, but finished with a “LeBron Lite Line” (20/6/6/2) while providing two highlight dunks. Could have been an A+ if won the game with that step-back J at the buzzer.

Jeff Foster - 12 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS
Wasn’t that productive for he first time in a while. Which means he “only” recorded 9 boards per 36 minutes. For shame, Jeffrey. For shame.
Dahntay Jones, SG 12 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS
Bobbled a long outlet pass that could have been a layup but wasn’t bad per se. Just not statistically helpful per se. Or, ya know, at all.
A.J. Price - 14 MIN | 3-5 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 TO | 11 PTS
Back when Vogel talked about the team having “7 starters,” it wasn’t unexpected to see a reserve give Indy six players in double figures. Now? AJ dropping 11 is a godsend. Not like Tyler will ever do it again.
Tyler Hansbrough - 16 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS
Dude is barely a rotation player most games at this point. And with George Hill still out, the bench being generally terrible is largely on his shoulders.
Lance Stephenson - 9 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS
Decent little outing. He’s finally getting to the point where he’s ready to help out the second he gets in the game rather than needing four or five possessions to warm up.

Ed note: This post has been updated to reflect non-incorrect math when it comes to winning streaks.

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