Post-Game Grades: The Pacers Haymake the Mavs and Show Signs of Being Good Again

It’s late so I’ll save any major pronouncements that the Pacers are back for another day after we see some further confirmation. But this was the first time this season I have seen the team that won games in last year’s postseason.

They struggled from the line, but played well enough — and more importantly, scored well enough — that they had played the Mavericks even through the first 24 minutes. And then, as we saw so many times last season, they hit the nitrous in the third and took over the game. Lance Stephenson was (the becoming less) improbably catalyst and George Hill ran the show while Roy Hibbert protected the paint. The bench came in and held it down. Then they didn’t relent, extending the lead and giving the end-of-the-bench fodder a chance to get some burn for all the right reasons.

If you missed the game, there are only two things you really need to know: they shot 47% and only turned the ball over 8 times (5 of which came in the first half and 0 of which came in the third quarter). If you’ve been keeping track so far this season, both of those numbers seem like unreachable, miraculous gifts from the heavens. (On the other end of the court, which has been much less concerning, the Pacers held the Mavs to just 34 points in the second half on 31.1% shooting.)

Sure, Dallas isn’t the best team in the NBA, but they did have Shawn Marion back. That’s window dressing though. The opponent doesn’t really matter right now. For the next few games, I’ll be watching Indiana as if they’re playing a round of golf: of course you want to beat the person you play with, but you’re really playing against yourself.

Tonight, the Pacers spent a whole half looking like a capable, competent NBA team. Then they spent the next two quarters looking like the team that can beat up on a struggling opponent.

Those two sentences, minus the context of this team’s season so far, mean little. But here, now, tonight, they mean a lot.

Check back Sunday, after a matinee at Madison Squar, to see if this was an anomaly or a recalibration.

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 - 27 MIN | 5-9 FG | 5-8 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS

Made 3 of his 4 shots in the paint tonight, which is excellent to see from a guy who has struggled to convert from close range so far this year. (He was a miserable 47% in the restricted area coming into tonight’s game after making 65% from there in last year’s playoffs.)

Paul George – 26 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS

Still not Johnny Efficiency but he looked much more like himself this evening, getting out on the break for an easy dunk and sticking a confident foul-line jumper making an instinctual cut out of a two-man game with Roy. I think just seeing the ball go through the rim some will get him out of his early-season funk. Did make at least one comical dribbling turnover though.

Roy Hibbert - 29 MIN | 5-15 FG | 4-7 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS

The shooting was once again ugly, with his first few buckets only coming on tip-ins and one dunk. Still, he got two tip-ins and a dunk. Then, once it was pretty well over, he put in two hook shots. Got to the line some and played a lot of very good defense (2 blocks in the pivotal third quarter). Arguably his best game this season, which is saying a lot.

George Hill - 34 MIN | 5-7 FG | 4-6 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 15 PTS

THERE HE IS. Stats speak for themselves and he led quite an excellent offense in the 3rd when Indy pulled away, dishing out 4 assists in the period. Meanwhile, check his shot chart. That’ll work.

Lance Stephenson – 25 MIN | 5-9 FG | 1 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS

Beast. He’s a good basketball player. It’s settled. I’m in. In transition, he got points without you ever thinking he wouldn’t and scored 10 of his 12 points in the 3rd quarter (on 6 shots) while playing all 12 minutes. Game ball.

Miles Plumlee – 2 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS

Wasn’t really paying attention when he played if we’re being honest here. And I can’t lie to you guys.

Tyler Hansbrough – 23 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-5 FT | 6 REB | 8 PTS

Whether he did or did not hit Vince Carter in the eye, he gets an A for at least trying.

Jeff Pendergraph - 2 MIN | 1-1 FG | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS

See also: Plumlee, Miles

Sam Young - 21 MIN | 6-11 FG | 4 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS

Look what Frank Vogel found in his couch cushions. I can’t believe that “Sam Young: Zone Buster” will become a thing, but he made some outside shots tonight and had one really nice blow by of Shawn Marion, who is normally still an astute defender. It looks like he will be back in the rotation after two straight DNP-CDs.

Gerald Green - 21 MIN | 2-6 FG | 5 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS

Had that sweet Kobe-esque, reverse-pivot fadeaway from the free-throw line — plus the foul. Gets a B for that alone.

Ian Mahinmi – 13 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS

Looked like the guy you want being your backup center.

D.J. Augustin – 14 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 PTS

Second-unit offense will never be pretty (at least until Danny returns) and some of the problems were spacing-based. In short, he seemed to do a pretty good job out there.

Orlando Johnson - 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS

Like the Plumlee guy.

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