Post-Game Grades: Pacers Edge Out a One-Point Win in Memphis

How about them Pacers? This one-point win in Memphis on MLK Day tied them with Miami for the most wins in the Eastern Conference (26). They remain in third, behind Miami and New York, since they have more losses, but this looks to be a completely different team from the one we saw early in the season.

This win was impressive for several reasons. I shall list a few.

1) It was a very balanced attack.

Nobody scored more than 14 points but six players had at least eight in what had to be one of the slowest-paced NBA games this season. (It was an estimated 85 possessions, according to Hoop Data.) Normally, in wins, the team has leaned heavily on either Paul George or David West, with the occasional late-game heroics of George Hill. This game was a much more varied mix of contributions with a steady diet of team defense.

2) They played up to the moment.

Indiana went to Memphis to play a early game on MLK Day in the town where Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. Aside from the postseason and All-Star Weekend, the two biggest dates on the NBA calendar are Christmas and MLK Day. Before the game, players are asked big questions about civil rights and their place in history. It may seem a little canned after watching similar scenes play out each year, but it has to feel larger than the average game. On the court, this game also felt meaningful. It was a playoff-level atmosphere and a game that the Grizzlies really needed to win from a confidence standpoint.

3) They overcame late-game adversity.

The Grizzlies second-to-last possession seemingly went on forever. I haven’t seen anything like it in a late-game scenario since the Pacers did something similar to the Washington Wizards last year.

The Pacers played remarkable defense, rotating to shooters and blitzing ball-handlers. David West was everywhere, starting the play off with a (rare) gamble for a steal before recovering to the paint and, later, completely shutting down a driving lane after a Memphis pick-and-roll. Roy Hibbert guarded the rim like a rottweiler, thwarting both Tony Allen and Mike Conley from scoring in the paint. Paul George was his Mr. Fantastic self, extending his arm high into the sight line of Rudy Gay, who was left with no choice but to take (and miss) a bad, leaning shot over the contesting George.

Unfortunately, Indiana couldn’t ever corral the loose balls that resulted from the Grizzlies’ misses. Allen made a heads-up play to dislodge the ball from Hibbert’s grasp and found a wide-open Zach Randolph under the rim. It was a 47-second possession that Indiana covered perfectly for about 45 seconds. Asking for anything more, even of the NBA’s best defense, is a lofty request.

The game was then tied with just 10 seconds to play. In the past, this game would have been all but guaranteed to go to overtime. Remember back two years ago when the up-and-coming Pacers faced the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. The teams basically played to a standstill in almost every game, and then the Indiana offense wilted. There was never much hope they would come up with a big basket when they needed it, especially if the momentum had just swung the other way.

Against Memphis, George Hill had other ideas. The Pacers ran a strange, if effective play in which both David West and Paul George ran to the top of the key in what appeared to be a decoy double-ball screen on Hill’s defender. Either they were confused about where they were supposed to be on the court or, more likely, it was just a misdirection to clear out the whole right side of the court for Hill. Regardless, the Indianapolis native drove hard to the rim and either did or did not get fouled by Mike Conley. It was close and perhaps dubious so late in such a hard fought game, but no matter whether you think it was the right call, it was aggressive, good offense that gave the Pacers a good chance to end the game in regulation.

Hill knocked down one of two free throws, and Rudy Gay didn’t get off a last-chance heave in time on the other end. Again, it was oddly similar to the end of that Wizards’ game last season, when John Wall did the exact same thing: make a last-second shot on his home court only to have it waived off since it came after the horn. Another similarity: Excellent on-ball defense by Paul George forced the shooter to take too much time before putting up an attempt. He did this after playing every minute of the second half.

(In an unrelated, but similarly “overcoming adversity” way, the Pacers also won on the road against a playoff team despite committing 20 turnovers. I don’t have any stats on this, but I’m guessing that rarely happens in the NBA.)

4) Paul George made a big shot on the road.

If there is one legitimate reason that Paul George shouldn’t make the All-Star team, it is his home/road splits. They are ugly. In short, he has shot the ball sensationally at home (averaging 21.5 ppg on 48.1% shooting and 49.6% from long range) but proved unable to hit water from a boat on the road (13.8 ppg on 37.2% and 27.0%).

But with the Pacers down a point and under two minutes to play, George calmly cut to the wing to lose himself from a not-paying-attention Rudy Gay as David West penetrated the lane. George squared up, caught a perfect kick-out pass from West and knocked down a shot. It was obviously going in from the second he let it go.

You can almost tell at this point when his three will go in. As long as he is balanced, open and doesn’t float from side-to-side on his release, it’s usually cash. Gay gave him way too much daylight and George caught the ball with all the confidence in the world. Unless I’m forgetting something, that was the biggest shot Paul George has hit on the road this season.

Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 3.45.16 PM

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 | 7-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 5 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +1 

The blocks, late-game defense and kick-out assist to Paul George near the end were all nice to see.

Paul George, SF 43 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -4 

Nearly added his name to the Pacers’ 2012-13 Triple Double club and played some suffocating defense. If he’s not an All-Star after the versatility he has shown—at both ends of the floor—against Memphis and Houston, I will be shocked.

Roy Hibbert, C 33 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -2 

Big fella started off the game making some shots and ended the game preventing Memphis from doing the same. Indiana will take that.

George Hill, PG 33 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 8 TO | 13 PTS | -2 

Earned a trip to the line for the game-winning FT and generally had a good all-around stat line. Gets a demerit for missing one of those two freebies though. If Rudy Gay understood how time works, the Pacers lose because of that miss.

Lance Stephenson, SG 35 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +2 

Wasn’t much of a difference maker.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 12 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | 0 

That rebound.

 

Gerald Green, SF 6 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4 

Sometimes forget he is still on the team.

Ian Mahinmi, C 15 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +3 

Didn’t do much. Defense was fine.

D.J. Augustin, PG 15 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-1 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +3 

Backup point guarding as backup point-guarding needs to be done. If you factor in how god awfully slow this game was, those six points seem like more. Like wind chill factor.

Orlando Johnson, SG 12 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | +8 

Looks like the Pacers bought themselves a nice little player. Had a few “calm down” moments, but that is par for the course with a rookie.

Frank Vogel 

I’m still not sure exactly what happened on the Pacers’ final possession, but I liked it. And anyone who can get his team to play defense this well at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday deserves some credit.

Topics: Game Recap

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  • Joe Betz

    I give West an “A” for his season-best defensive numbers, timely shooting, and better assist to PG on the shot you use to highlight PG’s play. I agree with all of your points about why this win is noteworthy and how it reveals a Pacers team that is turning a corner collectively, even if some pieces are still fitting sometimes and falling off other times (Green). Lance and Orlando have been pleasant surprises, though.

    Granger has created trade rumors. Anyone know anything more? I think it would be ridiculous to trade him–he’s an above average defender, rebounder, and scorer, if not an elite player in any category. Money-wise, I get it, but not this season.

    • Jack Wright

      yea hell no we shudn’t trade him

    • djmcba

      The reason to trade Danny is two fold:

      1) You don’t want his return to stunt PG’s development since they both naturally play the three ( I don’t buy this argument as George can easily play and guard the two with his athleticism)
      2) Danny is only under contract through next season

      While I think it is highly unlikely that Granger is traded this season, odds are he is not on the roster at the beginning of next year. We HAVE to resign West and Granger’s expiring contract will be attractive to a lot of teams. That, in conjunction with looking to get a better team fit, I feel safe in assuming PG is our 3 of the future, means Danny will be gone before next season.

      The only reason we trade him this year is if we find that right fit. Also, here is hoping he plays well immediately upon return to boost his trade value.

    • Ian

      Almost impossible to see a scenario where we get someone more valuable than Danny in a trade this season. His value should go up assuming he recovers from injury. I like the idea of having him be a super-6th man after he comes back, in the Manu style of coming off the bench but finishing the game with the starters.. It’ll take him a month or more to play into shape anyway,
      Now, the other big decision, what about West? He’s been the Pacers best or 2nd best player all season, and his contract is expiring. More importantly, we have no replacement. Do we resign him? Can we afford it? Can we afford not to? He’s not young but his game should age very well, being that it’s based on size, strength and skill, not speed and jumping. Because the Pacers are a contender I don’t see them trading him.

      • Ian

        Another question, isn’t Lance a UFA after this season? It’s hard to imagine saying this before the season, but he has a chance to be the Pacers starting SG of the future if he improves between this season and next like he did between last season and this one.

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

          Re: Granger – I agree, we can’t trade him right now unless it’s a slam dunk of a deal. And I largely feel that way about trading him in the offseason too. This team is really good RIGHT NOW, and that’s not something that should be taken for granted. I think we should embrace the fact that PG will be due his extension (almost certain to be a max) the same year that Granger’s contract comes off the books. Unless Danny falls apart, I say we should use him up. Our cap situation could be exactly the same next year, so why not.

          Re: West – I think we should resign him for another 2 years/$10mil per deal. I just don’t know how else we can get a 4 on his level, or where the money would be better spent.

          Re: Lance – Pretty sure we have a team option on him for next season. After next year it could be a little tricky though; I think he’ll be an RFA. I’m worried we could become victims of the same poison pill deals that the Rockets used to get Lin/Asik.

    • lil-bang

      I think it all comes down to Granger and how he comes back. Pacers won’t trade him away for nothing, and he would be a huge gamble for most teams to trade something big to get him without seeing him play.

      But if he comes back strong, It will get very interesting. Pacers can’t afford his contract after next season if it stays the same (unless West leaves and Pacers don’t get a good replacement.)

      If Danny plays like Danny when he comes back, he either played himself into a trade and most likely played himself into a last big contract with another team.

      The only way he stays in Indy next season is if he his either mediocre or Indy is thinking they only have a shot a winning a title with him on the roster (but being a small market team I doubt they let his contract ride)

      The only way he stays in Indy long term is if he takes a pay cut and some other players (West and George) don’t sign on for extreme contracts.
      I think Paul George’s contract goes out after next year. That looks to be another max contract the Pacers will have offer. Not sure they can afford to resign West this offseason, then go back and resign PG to a max deal and along with keeping Granger.
      Anyways. Pacers are #3 in the east right now. Go Pacers!!!

  • Jack Wright

    i was thinking to myself going into that last possession, ‘set up a play for hill, vogel.’ i’m glad vogel did it (and i think it was intentionally set up for hill). hill seems to me to be pretty clutch. for example if hes having on off night, he often seems to salvage his otherwise poor performance by making some clutch plays down the stretch. he also might be the best finisher at the rim on the team. to me, hill and west are better clutch situation options than george or granger (or hibbert). nice desion by vogel. oh and hill absolutely got fouled. no question.

    also, what a great 3 by george late in the 4th right after memphis had finally taken the lead back. very nice to see.

    and lance needs to finish those fastbreak lay-ups. the whole team needs to be more efficient on fastbreaks.

  • Philip Tarrant

    Did Gerald Green actually play? I didn’t even notice him. I saw him on the sideline once and thought he looked familiar until I remembered, oh yeah, he’s that guy we just gave $10M to.

  • lil-bang

    Great Game. Didn’t get to see it since I was at work, but kept checking the score. Like to see the Pacers start out a road trip with a win against a good team.
    Like the play call by Vogel. It worked.
    Every game that is close I am even more delighted we have Hill. Collison would have fumbled the ball or not got a shot off.