Post-Game Grades: Indy Plays So Bad Early vs Toronto that Even Historic Defense Doesn't Allow Them to Come Back

Right before the game, Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel said that his team hadn’t been able to put together a complete game so far this year. They had shown flashes in each, but it always fell off the rails at some point. “The first six games we had a stretch in each game where a certain unit just got waxed,” said Vogel.

Tonight, that stretch lasted about 30 minutes. Indiana started off the game like gangbusters, forcing turnovers and getting out on the break. Before long their easy-bucket-aided offense looked swell and they were up nine. Then, nothing remotely good seemed to happen for a half-hour of game time. The fourth quarter was better, in the sense that the offense looked to re-find itself as Tyler Hansbrough and George Hill reanimated a team that had looked like a waste of jersey detergent for much of the night.

Unfortunately, as the Indiana defense put the clamps on a gassed Toronto offense, the Pacers just couldn’t make shots. They were getting good ones, too, for the first time all game (although they also passed up a few good jumpers they should have taken). For the game, they shot 16-for-38 inside 8 feet, and an impressive 0-for-5 from 8 to 16 feet, according to NBA.com.

Here is their fourth quarter shooting chart. At first glance, it may look like more mid-range jumpers than you would want. But two from to the top of the key by Gerald Green and Hill were both fine looks in rhythm so they weren’t all ill-advised. Moreover, look at all the missed shots in the paint.

The important part to getting some good looks was the spacing: They were spreading the floor, getting both ball and player movement for the first time all night. They looked good after dozens and dozens of terrible, wasted, awful possessions.

And on the the other end, they were truly excellent, as the Raptors couldn’t even conceive of getting a good shot.

Just look at all those Xs. They shot 1-for-15 in the quarter. That is 6.7%. Six. Point. Seven.

And they won. UPDATE: Which was historic.

But the only times they did threaten to put points on the board, Indy would make a play. Hansbrough would slice into an attacker’s path and draw the charge. Paul George would cut off a driving lane. Hill would pester a ball handler into surrendering an advantage by reversing the ball. Yes, Toronto was running on fumes, but it really was excellent defense by Indiana.

On the other end, however, even though Indy was creating good, fluid offense by and large, they just couldn’t convert jack. Other than Hill. And he nearly won the game all by himself, hitting the Pacers’ final four field goals to turn a 9-point deficit into a game-winning shot attempt. Alas, it wasn’t enough. The road to defeat was too well paved with futility. It was a fourth quarter in which they had a franchise-best defensive fourth quarter, holding their opponent to a virtually-unheard-of five points over 12 minutes.

It wasn’t enough.

Somehow.

And as strange as that seems, it almost seems normal for this season so far. This ugly, disappointing, discouraging season. Fortunately, November basketball often proves to be mostly meaningless. This team seems to have some real, deep-seeded problems on the offensive end. But they also have another game tomorrow. So … get excited. Should be another fun way to spend a few hours.

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 37 MIN | 3-12 FG | 5-8 FT | 6 REB | 11 PTS

Missed fine shots more than took bad ones. But not producing is not producing and he, like everyone else, ended a bunch of possessions with no points.

Paul George, SF 41 MIN | 3-14 FG | 9 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS

He is really lacking any feel for when and how to attack with the ball. And he seems to know it. So he’s pressing in other areas. And while he on-ball defense generally remains sterling, he appears to be over-trying to “get it back” with steals, which isn’t always helping.

Roy Hibbert, C 24 MIN | 3-9 FG |  9 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS

RT @JohnSchuhmann Roy Hibbert had 0 free throw attempts tonight. Now has 11 in 238 minutes this season.

George Hill, PG 37 MIN | 8-20 FG | 5 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS

If it wasn’t for him, the Pacers would have outscored Toronto just 6-to-5 instead of 14-to-5. While you have to give him demerits for the “offense” he ran in the first half, he was the one who put the team on his back late.

Lance Stephenson, SG 27 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS

Had some moments early then disappeared, scoring-wise. But he made several nice passes into the paint in the second half that got Indiana some good scoring chances.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 22 MIN | 0-2 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 5 PTS

Numbers scmumbers. He was easily the team’s MVP. Sure, there was the clear energy difference when he hit the court. And he kept so many balls alive on one end and drew charges on the other. But it was also, most alarmingly, the execution he helped bring that stood out. It was in part the spacing that he provided — coming out high to set picks, staying low when West was high, cutting to the right spots —

Gerald Green, SF 28 MIN | 2-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 6 PTS

Just again didn’t resemble a good basketball player.

Ian Mahinmi, C 12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 BLK | 3 PTS

Looked pretty OK.

D.J. Augustin, PG 11 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2 AST | 4 PTS

Makes a lot of questionable decisions, like giving Tyler the ball in transition in places he has no business trying to do something with the ball. Drew a nice charge though. Hit a three when they badly needed some offense.

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