Post-Game Grades: Pacers Beat Suns Despite Second Half Fizzle

The Pacers made it look easy in the first half last night. After an opening 8-1 salvo from the Suns, Indy finished the first quarter with a 9-point lead after a 28-12 closing run. The difference grew to as high as 16, before settling into a 14-point halftime margin. It was still 14 about four minutes into the third quarter, when the Pacer offense decided to do miss 16 of 20 shots over the next 14 minutes or so of game time.

As if succumbing to a bizarre urge to balance some perverted karmic scale, the Pacers offense displayed all of its worst traits in allowing the Suns to come all the way back to take a 2-point lead in the final stanza. They couldn’t shoot (20%), couldn’t hang onto the ball (7 turnovers), and burned way too much of the shot clock.

Then, as if doing a clip show, David West and some timely defense rescued the Pacers. Trailing 83-81 with just over 5 minutes to go, the Pacers outscored Phoenix 16-8 down the stretch to win 97-91. West chipped in 8 of those points,including two cold-blooded stepbacks – the first to give the Pacers the lead for good, and the second to offset a Jared Dudley 3 that had kept the Suns’ slim hopes alive.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Pacers have now won 7 of their last 8 games, and their 17-12 record matches exactly last year’s success rate through 29 games. However, it’s going to be a tough weekend for the Blue-and-Gold. They’re in Atlanta tonight to face the 18-9 Hawks in a building that has seen Indiana lose 10 straight, and 12 of their last 13.

Monday, they host the 18-8 Memphis Grizzlies, another team that has had the Pacers’ number lately. Indy has dropped five straight to the Griz, and 7 of their last 8.

It was good to get this win.

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 34 MIN | 5-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | +1Why do you give a guy who goes 5-for-15 an A? Because the point of the game is to get the win,and West delivered 8 of the Pacers’ final 16 points. “I don’t care if he’s (West) gone 2-for-20,” Vogel said after the game. “He’s going to be on the floor, and he’s going to get the ball.”
Paul George, SF 39 MIN | 4-12 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +3Poor shooting night, but still got 15 and played really good defense. Asked him about his preference between playing the 2 & 3 after the game. His response was that he didn’t really care so much about the position – referring to himself in a mashup as a “shooting forward” – but he did prefer the side of the floor where Vogel positioned the 3 better.
Roy Hibbert, C 32 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-4 FT | 14 REB | 4 AST | 8 PTS | +18Fourteen rebounds and some decent defense are all that keeps him from getting a much lower grade and much harsher criticism. Other than a big offensive rebound, Hibbert mostly hurt the Pacers in the fourth. Outplayed by Jermaine O’Neal.
George Hill, PG 33 MIN | 9-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 22 PTS | +5Faded a little after a blistering start, but I think we’re still trying to figure out how good Hill can be. And when I say “we,” I’m including Hill in that.
Lance Stephenson, SG 37 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-4 FT | 9 REB | 5 AST | 10 PTS | +14Sure, he missed the three free throws, but Vogel said after the game that Lance made the most important defensive play of the game on a weakside steal. It happened on a weakside sink, and the coach said they’d been on Lance for three years about his weakside defense. He’s learning, and he belongs on the floor with the game on the line.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 14 MIN | 5-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +5Tyler was great in the first half – best half of the season according to Vogel – but didn’t get as much burn in the second half. I asked the coach after the game, and he said that he liked going with West for the entire third at this point in time. It’s basically a function of trying to avoid having a full 5-man bench unit on the floor at once.
Gerald Green, SF 20 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -5Definitely a step back from his last few games, but still delivered 8 points on relatively efficient shooting. However, can be criminally unaware of what’s happening on the floor from time-to-time.
Ian Mahinmi, C 16 MIN | 1-5 FG | 4-6 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -12Game could have been much better had he knocked down two or three of his pretty good looks in the game, but still playing a good game for a backup center. Still needs better hands.
D.J. Augustin, PG 15 MIN | 0-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +1Decent performance covering for Hill’s brief absence in the first quarter (thigh contusion), but still isn’t setting the world afire.

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