Post-Game Grades: Fourth-Quarter Collapse to Atlanta Mars Good Indiana Showing

People will justifiably clown that fourth-quarter meltdown in which the Pacers scored just 9 points in the period, coughed up a double-digit lead and went five minutes without hitting a shot. And any basketball players that do such a thing barely have the right to be called professionals on this day.

But ya know what?

This loss in Atlanta was the most encouraging sign yet that the Pacers aren’t totally cooked without Danny Granger for the next few months. Because, really, in order to collapse, you do actually have to be in total control for the game. And Indiana was. For a few hot seconds, anyway.

In the third quarter it even got to the point where you stop even glancing at the score because one team, Indiana, was controlling the game so much. From the other perspective, you could write the same thing about the Hawks: they had one terrible stretch but started and closed the game really well, which is what matters. Well, Indiana won the middle of the game. Sure, winners and winners and loser are losers and monster trucks and COME AT ME BRO and extreme sports and No Fear t-shirts and all that. But it aint even mid-November and nothing truly matters yet, so let’s not harp on details. Whether you’re 2-3 or 3-2 isn’t preordaining your season.

The key takeaway, to me, is less about the discouraging but hopefully not deeply significant collapse. It was watching the Pacers, for the first time this season, string together two excellent offensive quarters. In the second period, they shot 11-for-21 (52.4%), had 7 assists on those 11 buckets and scored 25 points despite only hitting one three and no free throws. You would like them to get to the line, but they got everyone involved and just generally looked cohesive. Eight players scored in quarter and nobody made more than 2 FGs. Nice distribution. Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson played all 12 minutes and just looked flat-out good. He looked like flat-out trash during the fourth-quarter collapse, but we’ll just pretend, for now, that that part of the game film got lost in the mail.

The third quarter was just as good and magnified by the fact that the Hawks couldn’t score. Indiana shot 10-for-24 but netted 5 FTs and hit 2 threes (albeit on 8 attempts) while grabbing 4 ORBs and only turning it over 2 times. The numbers don’t jump off the page to scorch your eyes but they were playing with a confidence and energy that I haven’t seen yet this year.

Sure, you want to win. And if you lose, you definitely, undeniably don’t want to lose like that. Hopefully, the embarrassment motivates instead of hurts their confidence. The most likely scenario, however, seems to be that this is game that they lament, but also the one that they, for the first time since the Miami series, remember that they can actually play stellar basketball.

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, PF 36 MIN | 9-18 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS
The team’s best offensive player so far this year and it isn’t close. I don’t know whether it’s an extra year removed from ACL surgery, being more comfortable letting everyone know this is his team or just his making up for Danny’s void. But he is ultra aggressive when he’s on the court and it’s Indiana’s biggest asset right now.
Sam Young, SF 11 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS
What woud ya say ya do here? Probably have to blame Vogel for this though. I think the Young-as-starter experiment has run its course. No harm in trying, but let’s move on.
Paul George, SF 39 MIN | 5-13 FG | 7 REB | 3 TO | 13 PTS
Any expectations of efficiency looks like it should be reserved for a month from now (though he did just miss some open shots) and still at times looks like a guy whose training wheels just came off a few days too early. But his defense was excellent at times and he is still getting boards.
Roy Hibbert, C 37 MIN | 4-12 FG | 7 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS
I mean …
George Hill, 38 MIN | 7-12 FG | 3 REB | 5 AST | 4 STL | 20 PTS
Shot very well and made some good plays. Best game of the season.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 15 MIN | 2-4 FG | 3 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTSDidn’t play much and looked like he got hit by lightning on one play for no apparent reason, but that’s just Tyler, I suppose. Got an assist.
Gerald Green, SF 18 MIN | 2-8 FG | 5 REB | 5 PTS
Nothing too bad. Nothing memorably worthwhile.
Ian Mahinmi, C 8 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS
West played a ton in the second half so he didn’t really see the court much. Was fine while out there and made one nice play on the baseline.
D.J. Augustin, PG 10 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS
Team struggled when he played.
Lance Stephenson, SG 28 MIN | 3-10 FG | 5 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS
Was playing a stellar game, including stuff that didn’t make the stat sheet (head’s up steal, good close out, ball rotation, composure/patience catching the ball coming off pin-downs), which is something he was incapable of last year. But really did throw up all over himself late with bad shots and careless play.

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