Post-Game Grades: Early Troubles Subside as Pacers Bury Pistons in Detroit

After starting the year 3-0, the Pacers headed up to Detroit to clash with one of the few teams in the NBA that have a similarly large front court. The likes of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are supposed to be able to match up with Indiana’s bigs in ways that most can’t.

But instead they just became dinosaur food for Roy Hibbert, who went all triceratops while swatting away 7 shots to bring his league-leading season blocked shot total to 21. In four games. Yup.

Indiana was humming early on the other end, too, dropping 29 first-quarter points on 13-for-21 (61.9%) shooting. Paul George was — as has become his new normal — sensational, hitting his first five shots while logging 15 points in the opening period. In fact, he singlehandedly bested the scuffling Pistons, which only managed 14 points on 23 shots in the first.

The roles quickly reversed, however, as Indiana was the team that spent the next 12 minutes shambling around the court to little effect. The Pacers embarrassed themselves, their loved ones and their dead pets by scoring just 9 points in the second quarter. Not so coincidentally — and aided by Indiana’s six turnovers — Detroit racked up 27 points on just 19 shots.

They say hoops is a game of runs but this switcharoo was just silly.

Some of it was certainly Lance Stephenson’s fault. He played all but three seconds in the quarter and was in no way the lone starter on the court who steadied the reserves as things went awry. Instead, he pressed and forced things rather than relying on the offense and just made a bad situation worse.

After an extended rest, the starters re-entered, and it seemed like the cavalry was back. We saw this countless times last year: the starters build a lead, the bench loses it and then the core five return to save the day.

Not this time. In the second quarter, they were no better than the reserves who started the tailspin. The outcome was the Pacers inexplicably trailing by three at the half.

On Twitter, fans were rightfully pointing the finger at Lance. But ultimately, his weak play didn’t end up mattering and may have even given the coaching staff a teachable moment in the film session (or perhaps even during the break).

Why didn’t it matter?

Because after halftime, the Pacers — especially Paul George and Lance Stephenson — immediately re-engaged into teeth-kicking mode, throwing wrecking balls and chainsaws and radioactive crocodiles at the Pistons on both ends of the court.

Paul and Lance each hit two shots early on to cap an 11-0 run that essentially ended Detroit’s night. The Pistons have talent so they kept fighting, and their bigs continued to get annoyed with Hibbert as the contest grew chippier.

But by and large the rest of the game was uneventful.

Just the lone undefeated team in the NBA showing up to the arena of a former rival, playing top-notch defense and taking care of business to improve its record to 4-0.

Ya know … doing Pacer stuff.

Indiana Pacers 99 Final
Recap | Box Score
91 Detroit Pistons

Here is how each guy played individually tonight. Agree? Disagree? Express your thoughts below in the comments or yell at Jared (@8pts9secs) or Tim (@TimDonahue8p9s) on Twitter.

David West, PF 34 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +14

Rounding into form. Still not as comfortable out there when he gets the ball in his kitchen, but played good defense in the third when Indiana needed it and finished with a nice little line to boot.

Paul George, SF 41 MIN | 12-18 FG | 3-3 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 31 PTS | +18

I’m sure Mr. George has played better games — like against Miami in June, for example — but he was so productive tonight while playing so calmly and confidently that this game marked a new high for this new and improved incarnation of Paul George. He is mastering Serene Dominance, if that makes any sense, and one stretch was particularly incredible. He followed up a backdoor lob cut/alley oop dunk with an incredible steal then soon after hit a step-back three that was followed by one of the best drive-and-dishes of his career. Plays like this now happen so quickly, so unexpectedly and so precisely that I’m starting to think Paul George is less a basketball player and more a drone strike.

Roy Hibbert, C 34 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-4 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 7 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +20

There is a sunblock sponsorship deal in big guy’s near future. SPF Hibbert, it will be called. (c) #patentpending

C.J. Watson, PG 30 MIN | 5-11 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | +22

I have to admit that I wasn’t too optimistic when Indiana signed him, but C.J. has shown he meshes very well with this team while leading it to two straight victories as George Hill nurses his achey hip. Not just a fill in tonight but a difference maker.

Lance Stephenson, SG 39 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 10 PTS | -2

His second quarter — when he was often the only starter on the floor in a period in which the Pacers scored 9 points — wasn’t pretty. It was over-dribble theater at times and just a general head-scratch parade. But Lance was rather good otherwise, and he combined with George to lead a scoring run in the third that buried the Pistons. And it’s tough to dock him many points given the stat-stuffing line.

Luis Scola, PF 14 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -6

Still not himself, but had some nice flashes late that were encouraging. He’s going to be very good in the midrange very soon.

Solomon Hill, SF 5 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +8

Had one nice stint with mostly starters to close the first quarter, but Paul George played virtually the whole second half so his services weren’t needed again.

Ian Mahinmi, C 14 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -14

Did him.

Donald Sloan, PG 18 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -12

Looks like Indiana’s third-string point might prove more reliable than their second-stringer from a year ago. Was solid and steady in the second half as the Pacers closed it out.

Orlando Johnson, SG 11 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -8

Looking good out there. And didn’t even get posterized by C.J. Miles this time.

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