Post-Game Grades: Pacers Beat Blazers, Rise Above .500

In a shocking development, a few of Indiana’s bench players entered the game in the third quarter and spurred a big enough run to put a bullet in the Blazers. A 17-4 run over the final five minutes of the period turned what had been a closely contested game into one that the Pacers looked poised to run away with. Even better, this came after the starters began the half with a 6-0 run of their own.

One reason that this stretch of bench play wasn’t as discouraging as usual is obvious: David West and Paul George were out there the whole time. Coach Frank Vogel chose not to sub out all the starters for a full bench unit, per usual, and instead left two of his three reliable offensive options on the floor. In fact, he held with Lance Stephenson as well until just 2:30 left in the quarter (in a lineup of West, George, Stephenson, DJ Augustin and Ian Mahinmi). Green then came in and hit a three to keep the good times rolling.

This excellent third quarter play was an uncanny staple of last year’s Pacers. This, year, however, consistent offensive production has been nonexistent for stretches approaching 12 full minutes. But last night, Indiana outscored Portland 31-14 and nearly put the game out of reach.

The Blazers did mount a comeback.

Future Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews combined for 16 points in the fourth. LaMarcus Aldridge even awoke from his two-quarter-long slumber to contribute a few points.

But even though the same bench that helped build the big lead began to give it all back early in the final quarter, the cushion Indiana created was ultimately enough to prevent the Blazers from having a good shot to win late. A few slick passes from Paul George, who may have had the best passing game of his career, and a mid-range dagger from West were enough to hold off the vandals. The team was even able to withstand two excellent half-court plays yielded zero points, as a superb George/West pick-and-roll on back-to-back plays got the Pacers two wide-open threes, but neither Sam Young nor Gerald Green were able to knock down their looks.

It happens.

The key is have played well enough earlier in the game to swallow a few unfortunate breaks later. Really, all you can ask a team to do down the stretch is run good plays that create good shots. The Pacers did that. They just missed them.

The difference between this week’s wins over Portland and Chicago win was that, against the Blazers, there was some chance Indiana would lose because they missed shots they should make while, against the Bulls, there was only some chance the would win because Paul George made a bunch of tough shots. The odd fan fascination with machismo and NBA teams needing “a closer” means that most people would rather watch their team win while George saves them with heroic contested jumpers than as a good, game-log performance just outlasts the clock. But every coach in the world would rather win by playing better basketball for 48 minutes.

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 32 MIN | 8-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 16 PTS | +11I didn’t even realize he was shooting as well as he was until the game was nearly over. That’s a pretty good microcosm of this year so far: even when you don’t notice David West carrying the Pacers, David West is carrying the Pacer.
Paul George, SF 38 MIN | 7-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 5 AST | 22 PTS | +4His first back-to-back 20-plus scoring games of the season came in his team’s back-to-back wins over Chicago and Portland. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him pass this well. The dish to Hill, the overhead bounce pass to Mahinmi, the lob entry to West, the perfectly timed entry passes, the “this guy in the corner is even more open then me” swing passes. They were all works of art.
Roy Hibbert, C 29 MIN | 3-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +1Big fella couldn’t hit water with an anchor right now, but he was still there in the paint preventing guys from scoring. He was a primary culprit in horrible team pick-and-roll defense that gave JJ Hickson two easy dunks though.
George Hill, PG 34 MIN | 5-13 FG | 5-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 18 PTS | +5Scored most of his point during a key 10-1 run near the end of the first half. Played fine and kept the ball moving to the right people in the right places. Nothing that was memorably fantastic, but did his job well overall. On offense anyway. On the other end, got roasted by Lillard on several drives and didn’t help things in the pick and roll at times.
Lance Stephenson, SG 23 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 2 PTS | +4You would like to see more points, but if this is what a “bad” Lance game now looks like, that is something all Pacers fans should be happy with. Starting to be a more active rebounder, which with his athleticism should result in him being able to grab a miss and spark the break.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 16 MIN | 3-6 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -2A comical travel, a bunch of FTs, two dunks and some boards. The ideal expectations from Tyler.
Sam Young, SF 12 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +2Why he remains in the rotation baffles me.
Gerald Green, SF 23 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +2Hit some treys, took some bad shots.
Ian Mahinmi, C 19 MIN | 6-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +4The best bench player on the team at this point. He didn’t miss and played solid defense.
D.J. Augustin, PG 15 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 1 PTS | +4Did his DJ Augustin stuff.

Tags: Game Recap

  • http://twitter.com/WillDeitte Will Deitte

    If Roy rounds into shape and gets rolling, we could be very dangerous. Once again, it’s predicated on bench play. Sure relieves the starters when they don’t have to come back in knowing they have to fight their way back into the game. It allows for higher percentage possessions and shots (or at least it should). W’s have been by an average margin of 6.2 with losses at a clip of 8.2 (With two losses to San Anton). Those possessions are SO important.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joebetzii Joe Betz

    The Young/Green open three becomes a Young/ Stephenson open three, and I feel better about future percentages. Mahinmi and Hibbert combining to create a consistent defensive presence if not always an offensive one–but, Hibbert is taking high-percentage shots, and they will start falling at some point…maybe more so when defenses cannot collapse as quickly with Granger on the wing.

    • Jack Wright

      we need to try to get him the ball deep in the post. but that’s tough to do

    • lil-bang

      I think he put Green in because he a couple shots before that, where Lance had missed a few threes already. So I think he just went with the guy with the better stroke for that particular night

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian-Murphy/1037267155 Ian Murphy

      I’m confused, why is Young even in the same sentence as ‘open three’? Perhaps I’m not following you but Young is a career .269 3-point shooter. Green is career mark is .365.

  • Jack Wright

    Hopefully this game instilled a little confidence into Hansbrough. We need this type of game from him more often. I’m amazed/surprised how huge of an asset Mahinmi has come to be for us. If he and PG keep up the good work, and if Hibbert’s shots start falling in every once in a while, we could start doing some damage in the East. I’m looking forward to seeing how we play at OKC coming up. A win there would sure be a treat for all of us.

    Don’t think I’d ever seen an interview with David West till after last night’s game. That guy might be the coolest person in the state of Indiana.

  • http://twitter.com/StretchFourNBA Stretch Four

    Great win, love that PG did it again!

    BUT I gotta say something about Vogel. I love that he’s got us playing great defense, and I generally still like him as a coach, but he did NOT put the team in a position to win down the stretch.

    1. He needs to start calling more timeouts when teams are rallying against a lead. The Pacers were up 18, and the Blazers started to chip it away, eventually getting it all the way down to 4. Vogel NEEDS to call a timeout once it gets down to 10. Stop their momentum, let your guys re-group, and let them start fresh while still having a double-digit lead. Pretty much every coach in the NBA does this, and I really don’t see a reason for Vogel not to do the same. At first I thought he was trying to let young guys learn by playing through these situations (maybe?), but at this point it’s inexplicable.

    2. Sam Young. Why was he on the floor in crunch time? Dude is a third-string quality player! And then you sub him out for Gerald Green? Granted that’s not as bad as Young being in there since Green had hit some shots, but let’s be real here. Green went 3-8 for 8 points, that’s what he’s supposed to do. That’s not really enough to qualify this as “going with the hot hand”.

    Meanwhile, Lance is apparently the third option in this situation as he stays on the bench. Nevermind that he’s clearly been the best out of these three guys. Nevermind that he leads the team in 3p%. Nevermind that he has already hit big shots late in games this season!

    I’m sorry, but both of those moves are inexplicable to me. The Pacers got lucky that this wasn’t a better team, because this could’ve been the 2nd Spurs game all over again. Vogel needs to do a better job of helping his guys close out games.

    • Realist

      Yeah. Sam Young appears to be the golden boy for reasons passing understanding. I dungeddit either.

    • lil-bang

      I was thinking the same thing in the 4th about the timeouts. Problem was he only had 2 with about 9 minutes left. I don’t know where he used all of them? Once I saw Portland coming back (got within 8 within 8 with about 7 minutes left), I cried call a timeout. Then I realized he only had 2 it was probably best to save those incase the game came down to the wire and he needed to call a timeout in the last minute to draw up some plays, even though those aren’t that great.

      • http://twitter.com/StretchFourNBA Stretch Four

        Just went back and looked at the game on League Pass… looks like they had 3 timeouts the entire 4th quarter until the final minute or so. They definitely could’ve/should’ve burned one during that rally.

  • Jack Wright

    we need another W tonight!