Post Game Grades: Pacers Honor Pierre the Pelican by Winning Ugly

Late in the second quarter of Indiana’s 95-90 come-from-behind victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, I made the following tweet:

Being wrong there broke a personal stretch of being absolutely correct that spanned minutes, perhaps even more than an hour, leading up to the fateful typage.

I can live with it. How ‘bout you?

The first two games have been Pacer basketball in all its gory – sketchy shooting and profligate turnovers that eventually ended up in a victory. They’ve demonstrated why I hold out very little hope for 55+ wins and a #1 seed, but at the same time consider Indiana the most likely title contender in the Eastern Conference not named Miami.

The Pacers are too sloppy, and their offense too erratic, to pile up regular season victories like cordwood. They are prone to dead spots, and they rarely run away from teams, and I think that costs them a handful of head-shaking losses over the course of 82 games.

What they can do, though, is be brutally effective. Indiana defends and rebounds, and most importantly, hardly ever lets teams get away from them. They are a long-haul team – built for seven-game playoff series – and the win in New Orleans is a microcosm of why.

The Pellies largest lead was 16, and it occurred for the last time 18 seconds into the third quarter. New Orleans – a young team with a good coach and some impressive talent – had Indiana reeling during their dominant first 24 minutes. The Pacers were lucky to only trail by 14 at the break.

Then, the Pacers finally landed a solid blow by answering the Pelicans’ opening bucket of the third with an 8-0 run. From there, the game became a wrestling match, much to Indiana’s favor.

After allowing 18 points off of 11 first half turnovers, the Blue & Gold gave up only two on their seven second half miscues.

After allowing New Orleans to collect 14 offensive rebounds out of the 36 chances off Indy’s defensive glass in the first three quarters, the Pacers surrendered only 1 of the 10 fourth quarter opportunities.

After missing 4 of 10 free throw attempts while trying to come back in the third quarter, Indiana calmly nailed all 11 freebies in a 36 point fourth.

After allowing over 106 points per 100 and scoring only 81 points per 100 in the first 24 minutes, the Pacers locked down (84/100 allowed) and poured it on (117/100 scored) over the final 24.

It would be easier if the Pacers were a well-oiled machine, but nowhere near as interesting.

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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 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | +3

David was the only offense early, but wasn’t enough, and once again struggled with his shot (3/11) and turnovers (3).

Paul George, SF 39 MIN | 9-19 FG | 10-13 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 32 PTS | +9

Don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any signs of Paul being unable to deal with the pressures of heightened expectations, yet. (Missed free throws are a bit of a drag, though.)

Roy Hibbert, C 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 5 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +7

Always tough to tell how much to penalize a player for foul trouble, because sometimes, it’s not his fault. I’d say it was a mixed bag last night. Hibbert’s extended absences hampered the team, but he made big plays late.

George Hill, PG 36 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 19 PTS | +1

Hill had trouble early dealing with the Pellies’ pressure, but delivered 14 second half points and a crucial 3 to put the Pacers up 4 with 31.1 seconds left.

Lance Stephenson, SG 41 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +3

Lance is a player whose numbers, I’ve felt, moderately to seriously understated his value throughout his emergence. Tonight’s line, I think, does the opposite. He made some plays., but expectations are rising, and I thought his decision making was very poor last night.

Luis Scola, PF 17 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | +5

In only 18.5 minutes per night, Luis isn’t stuffing the stat sheet – the only individual number that is impressive is his 7/11 shooting – but he’s having a positive effect. In each of the first two games, he’s been on the floor during pivotal early 4th quarter stretches, going 3-for-3 Tuesday night, and 2-for-2 last night.

Ian Mahinmi, C 24 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -4

Ian remains flawed offensively, but this game was a flash of why the Pacers wanted him to back up Roy. In extended minutes, he grabbed 7 boards and blocked 4 shots. More importantly, the team didn’t give up much ground (-4).

C.J. Watson, PG 15 MIN | 0-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | 0

Non-factor, though it was nice to see him hit his two freebies during a stretch where PG missed three and GHill missed one.

Orlando Johnson, SG 13 MIN | 0-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1

Non-factor.

Frank Vogel

The team is a reflection of the coach. They just keep coming. It’s not about perfect, just about getting the job done.

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