Post-Game Grades: Sadly, the Pacers Need a Valiant, Near-Miraculous Comeback to Beat the Wizards. It Was Fun Though

It’s difficult to get too excited about a team that trailed the Washington Wizards by 20 at half time. But it was a damn exciting finish. So we have to give these guys some credit for crawling their way back and executing on nearly every possession down the stretch to somehow scrape together an improbable 85-83 victory in DC.

There was absolutely no energy in the first quarter. This extended to the, by my estimate, 6,000 people in attendance but that’s no excuse. The Pacers got run out of the building in the opening minutes, allowing the Wizards to convert their first 7 shots, which came on 7 assists, as they piled up a 17-6 early lead. By the end of the first, that would be extended to a 34-18 margin.

The Wizards offense fell off a cliff in the second quarter but it was little help for a still-embarrassing Pacers attack that managed just 13 points in the period. At the half, they were down by 20. Again, this was against the Washington Wizards.

While such futility is pretty much inexcusable for a team that is billed as one that nobody will want to face in the playoffs (especially since they had the night before off), it did set the stage for some wonderful regular season theatrics.

Behind the team’s most dynamic weapon, Indiana reverted to the team we saw demoralize the Clippers the other night. Danny Granger dropped 11 of his 16 total points in the period. Roy Hibbert also started to realize he could have his way in the paint and started punishing Nene down low. The reserves checked in and things continued to roll. By continuing to thwart the Wizards sputtering offense and, finally, starting to score like they should against the Wizards, it was once again a game heading into the fourth.

And early in the final period is when the bench unit was at its best. Everyone chipped in on the scoring load as the backups turned a 9-point deficit to 2. Coach Frank Vogel then went back to the guys with the bigger paychecks. Let’s just say that was a good decision.

David West re-entered the game after having headed to the locker room early in the third quarter with a dislocated left pinky finger. He promptly stuck a jumper then stepped into a role where he would do all the little things for the rest of the game. Shortly thereafter, he make an expert entry pass to a perfectly positioned Hibbert, who caught the ball in motion spinning to his left and dropped a hook shot over Nene as easily as taking a coxinha from a baby. Hibbert made two more moves that were just as seamless to ensure his team, which was unraveling a bit on the other end and letting the Wizards score, could remain within striking distance.

The aforementioned unraveling was largely the fault of Paul George, who is usually the team’s best defensive wing. He stupidly fouled Jordan Crawford late in the shot clock rather than forcing him to take a tough, contested look. Then, on another play, he fell down and it led to a Nene dunk. When he missed an open three that, following a clutch drive by Granger to earn two free-throws, could have given the Pacers a lead, it looked like it just wasn’t George’s night. It seemed as though he was destined to be the weak link in the comeback that West, Granger and especially Hibbert were doing everything in their power to complete.

Until it seemed like not that at all.

George’s missed three-pointer bounced back toward him. West scooped it up. Seconds later, it was back in George’s hands in the exact same spot from which he had just missed. No defender even appeared to care that he had the ball and was open and squared up at the rim. He took one look around then gave a mental Kanye shrug as if to say, “if you’re gonna leave me this open …”

He let it fly and it hit all twine. Indiana was back on top by one.

Then Nene turned it over into the hands of Collison, who pulled it out and ran some clock. Indy finally got up a shot but missed. No matter. West back-tapped the ball back out. Collison again ended up with the ball and dribbled around, finally settling for a tough driving fadeaway. He missed. No matter. West back-tapped the ball out again and the Pacers had another offensive board.

By this point, starting from the George missed three, Indiana had had the ball on its offensive half of the court for more than 60 seconds. It was like a World Cup match between two teams of completely different skill levels. I’m sure I have seen extended possessions like this where the ball remains on one end for an unreasonably extended duration. But I can’t ever recall seeing it happen for this long in the closing seconds of a game. It was downright foolish. And it was almost entirely thanks to West, who continued to position himself just that much better, elevate just that much higher and backtap the missed shots out to his teammates. With a dislocated finger, remember.

Collison hit 1 of 2 free throws. Washington called timeout. They had the ball at halfcourt with 9 seconds to hit a game-tying — or game-winning — shot. John Wall got the ball. He stared down Paul George. He made a move that looked like a classic fake-drive, pull-up. But he didn’t. He actually tried to penetrate. But George retreated enough to stymy his advance. Wall pulled it back and looked like he would attempt a long two or — worse — scurry back behind the arc and attempt a game-winner. But George chased him back out, and Wall again pushed forward. He got some separation on a nice dribble move and pulled up from near the free-throw line. He let it go. He made it.

But it was too late. The ball didn’t leave his hand before the final buzzer. George had forced him to re-think his mode of attack enough times that there was no more time. In hitting the go-ahead three, and then playing some pretty top-notch defense on that final possession, George had redeemed his earlier follies.

And that there is a nice little microcosm for what the whole team did.

They should be embarrassed about the ghastly beginnings. But they should be proud about what they did when just one extra mistake would have meant a defeat.

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, 29 MIN | 6-10 FG | 4 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 13 PTS
Dislocated his finger in the 3rd and headed to the locker room. Came back to hit a jumper in the 4th and grab 2 official and another unofficial offensive boards in the final minute. That’s Kobe stuff.
Danny Granger, 5-12 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS
Dropped 11 pts (on 7 shots) in a 3rd quarter that saw Indiana chop 11 pts off the Wizards’ lead. And with Indy down 4 and 1:53 to go, he executed a set perfectly to earn 2 FTs and put his team within one Paul George trey of victory.
Roy Hibbert, C 33 MIN | 8-14 FG | 3-6 FT | 9 REB | 19 PTS
Just an absolute animal down the stretch. He kept Nene paralyzed on his back and dropped in 3 hook shots like nobody was even there in the waning minutes that kept the Pacers within striking distance.
Darren Collison, PG 33 MIN | 2-7 FG | 4 REB | 5 AST | 6 PTS
Not so good for most of the night. But he did continually track down the balls that West back-tapped. And he came up with the Nene turnover after George’s trey.
Paul George, 4-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 4 STL | 13 PTS
Was scuffling on defense late, stupidly fouling Jordan Crawford late in the clock on one possession and falling down on another. Then he hit that three. Then he kept John Wall from getting off a game-tying shot in time.

Dahntay Jones, SG 14 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS
Like pretty much everyone else: bad in the 1st half, excellent late. His corner three and another made jumper were instrumental in putting the Wizards against the ropes.
Leandro Barbosa, SG 15 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS
Didn’t do much in his second game as a Pacer. Other than hit one shot in a 4th quarter when Indiana needed every point they scored to win.
Louis Amundson, C 12 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-1 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS
Nothing special. Nothing alarming. Had a bucket during the comeback.
George Hill, SG 18 MIN | 0-5 FG | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS
Yikes on the stat line. But the reserves turned a 9-point deficit into 2 in the first 4:30 of the 4th and he was running that unit. So must have been doing something right.
Tyler Hansbrough, PF 22 MIN | 0-2 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 5 PTS
See Hill’s blurb. Got to the line, too.

Tags: Post-Game Grades Washington Wizards

  • NoLookPass

    WOW that was one of the luckiest wins I have ever seen in a long while! Washington gets 34 in the first and puts up only 49 over the final 3 quarters and yacks one up nicely to us.

    Danny had a real nice spurt in the 3rd, Roy had a period where he couldn’t miss and we got crazy lucky with all the offensive rebounds in the second half especially at the end after losing the battle of the boards in the first half. Roy and West had 13 rebounds in the second half after getting blanked over the first 24 and 8 of them on the offensive glass.

    I was worried about our bench roles and it was clear why tonight. Tyler gets 2 shots in 22:03 and has just 3 attempts over his last 4 quarters after his big 15 point half against the Clippers. Hill comes up with no assists to go with his poor shooting night, I worry his 6 assist game was somewhat of a fluke due to so many coming off broken down scrambles at end of shot clock rather than smooth true offensive sets. Barbosa was lost most of the night on both sides of the ball will poor shooting, TO’s, no defense and even a 0 for 2 trip to the stripe. D Jones getting wide open corner looks and Lou working off tips or wide open runs to the rim is fine, but they need to give it up if the defense is remotely around them. We aren’t going to win many games when those two have as many shots as the other three sixth man level players in under half the time.

    Thankfully this was Washington and we can get away with bad halfs and poor bench usage like tonight. But pull this in 6 weeks its going to get ugly and end quick!

  • NoLookPass

    BTW did Denari say on the broadcast that Tyler was leading the NBA in FT% this month? He’s was at .941 coming in and is at.925 now after missing one of 6. As often as he draws fouls and with his nice percentage I wish we would use him more in the post at the ends of the 1st and 3rd when we’re in or around the bonus.

  • Realist

    Meh. All I see is 27-18 instead of 26-19.

    Our defense was solid as usual, Wiz were on fire early, but then final 3 quarters of 17-15-17

    Still ironing the kinks out of the offense but we’ll be fine.

  • Sam

    Its about time that WE gave somebody the “good-team lock-down” treatment in the 4th.

    Two years ago we had many games in which we were the Washington Wizards, up 20, only to be completely shut down at the hands of a struggling (superior) team

    Feels good!

  • Joe B

    After Sacramento, this helps ease the pain. Sorry Wiz. Again, though, George with a 4 steal game. How many is that now? Is George leading the team in 3s and steals? A quick stat check would be easy, but I’m tired and it is time for bed. Pacers Win, Pacers Win, Pacers Win

  • Realist

    Wow, still hurting from the Sac game?

    Fair enough. I’m still hurting from the Miami game. And I’m not quite over Paul George and the dunk contest.

  • Zach Winningham


  • Chris D.

    A good lesson and confidence builder for a maturing team.

  • little B

    Good to pull that one off to have two more games the next two nights. Always nice to play awful and still pull out a win. Won’t be able to do that the next two games. Go Pacers.

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  • AJ

    In this condensed season, any win is a good win. I think Lou needs a higher grade than C+. 6&5 in 12min with 3-5 shooting is damn impressive. It’s what we used to love Jeff for, being the stat stuffer that he was, and in lieu of his retirement, Lou should be given more credit for taking over that role on this team.

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