Post-Game Grades: Pacers Ride Young Stars to 8-0

 

Midway through the third quarter tonight, I looked down at the Pacers box score which was yet again showcasing a beautiful bevy of balanced basketball. George Hill and Lance Stephenson each had 13 points while Luis Scola, David West, and Paul George stood at 10, 8, and 8 respectively.

If you prefer outstanding individual offensive performances, Pacer box scores may fool you into thinking that they are boring. And yet, despite the balance, several Pacers did in fact submit fantastic individual offensive performances tonight.

Starting anywhere other than the budding 23-year-old superstars would be a waste of time. From the get-go, good Lance showed up, snatching down rebounds with his trademark ferocity while also showcasing his improved playmaking ability. He ended up finishing with twelve assists as he seemingly looked to pad his assist total throughout the entire 4th quarter, but it’s hard to imagine someone playing a more complete and consistent first half than the one Lance submitted (despite this ridiculous technical that the officials felt necessary to whistle him for). By halftime, he had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists while also harassing the offensively challenged Tony Allen at every turn. To be honest, Lance played one of the few games where even his triple-double stat line understated his performance.

For his part, Paul George started out slowly, missing two decent looks from downtown in the first quarter before once again, sitting out the first eight minutes and change of the second. Still, it wasn’t one of those “Paul George just doesn’t look engaged” types of games that have plagued him in previous seasons. He kept attacking openings in the defense and hauled down several big rebounds – he was simply missing shots he has normally made so far this season. He would break out of his mini shooting slump in the third quarter by going 5-6 from the field for 13 points as the Pacers broke the game wide open. George now sits in elite company with Hakeem and Shaq as the only players in NBA history to score at least 20 points in every game of an 8-0 start.

Both guys are only 23-years old (starts hyperventilating a little bit).

In all, it was a dominating and complete performance from the league’s only remaining undefeated team. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Pacers led 80-55 before stepping off the gas a little bit in garbage time. Luis Scola was brilliant, yet again off the bench with 10 first half points. CJ Watson, after playing quite well in the starting lineup in George Hill’s absence, looked completely comfortable leading the second unit. In the first half alone, he contributed four assists and had several “Everybody, let’s calm down” moments in important spots. Even Ian Mahimni displayed some Roy Hibbert-like defense in the paint and rolled to the basket several times for easy buckets and trips to the free throw line.

I’ll stop now before I spout off some hyperbole about the Pacers being unbeatable when they play like this, because rash statements like that can only come back to haunt you.

Indiana Pacers 95 Final
Recap | Box Score
79 Memphis Grizzlies  Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 9.55.31 PM

Here is how each guy played individually tonight. Agree? Disagree? Express your thoughts below in the comments or yell at Jared (@8pts9secs),Tim (@TimDonahue8p9s), or Jon who filled in tonight (@Twitch8p9s) on Twitter.

David West, PF 26 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +9

Nitpickers might like him to cut his turnover rate down, but he adds so much to this team by way of intangibles that you live with the minute flaws. His chemistry with Lance is incredibly important, and the pick-and-pop that two ran that gave Lance his 9th assist near the end of the 3rd quarter was perfection.

Paul George, SF 32 MIN | 9-16 FG | 5-6 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | +24

The key with George this year has been his efficiency, and what more could you ask for than 23 points in only 32 minutes of action while shooting 56% from the floor? While his numbers weren’t spectacular in the first half, he remained engaged and opened up a lot for his teammates.

Roy Hibbert, C 24 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 5 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | +14

Hibbert’s offense was completely unnecessary tonight, and I think he’s more than ok with that. In addition to his five blocks, I counted 9 Memphis misses in the paint that he altered. Hibbert showed the reigning Defensive Player of the Year that there is a new sheriff in town.

George Hill, PG 25 MIN | 6-9 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +7

Hill looked completely healthy yet again in limited minutes, and managed to fill up the stat sheet while playing against a fellow Hoosier.

Lance Stephenson, SG 34 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +11

What, you couldn’t get a steal tonight, Lance? Best game since the Knicks’ series last year.

Luis Scola, PF 19 MIN | 5-10 FG |2-3 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +8

Hey, remember when this slot used to be filled by Tyler Hansbrough?

Solomon Hill, SF 14 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -4

He pulled down some nice rebounds and his defense has been above average, but Hill still struggles on the offensive end. More than once, he seemed to shy away from attacking the basket as he settled for a 3-point attempt. Still, at least he’s confidently taking the jumper as opposed to, I dunno, Sam Young?

Ian Mahinmi, C 24 MIN | 2-3 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +2

Ian’s best game of the year practically gave Roy Hibbert a night off, and one can only guess as to how important Mahinmi’s game will be in order to get Indy’s bigs through the entire season.

C.J. Watson, PG 20 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +10

If the stat line looks subpar, just notice his plus-minus and understand that wasn’t a fluke. Watson runs the second unit like a seasoned veteran.

Orlando Johnson, SG 16 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +1

One has to admire Orlando’s fearlessness at the offensive end. One also has to point out his youthful exuberance often leads to poor decision-making. A few ill-advised drives kept Orlando from a higher grade.

Chris Copeland, SF 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -1

The crowd favorite came in and sent the stands into a frenzy when his late 3-pointer rolled in. Copeland acknowledged the love with a nice tip of the cap to his supporters as well. One has to think he will be called upon at some point this season in a big moment.

Donald Sloan, PG 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -1

Garbage Time

Topics: Game Recap

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  • Jaret Binford

    This team is sick!

  • Realist

    Sure that Lance triple double was okay, I guess. But Ian clearly gets the game ball. 6/6 from the free throw line? For real?

    Seriously though, people talk about our “point guard play” like it’s our kryptonite or something, the only thing holding us back etc etc. If Lance is ballin’ like mad, playmaking and doing things, then does it really matter if the “2 in a 1′s body” George Hill is the one who carries the ball over halfway. I think not.

  • PacersFan

    Can we stop the mentions of our (admittedly weak) bench from last year? I feel like its going to quickly become a redundant/recurrent theme for the year whenever the media spotlight shines our way, and I for one would rather us concentrate on the positives of this season. Yeah those guys (hansbrough, green, augustin, plumlee) struggled at times last year, but they were also part of our success; the ’12-13 season was one of my faves as a pacers fan. It really got the rest of the state to start paying attention

    • Philip Tarrant

      I can count on one hand the number of times any of those four were the cause of even marginal success. However, I agree that it does no good to dwell on the past when there’s so much awesome from the start of this season.

    • Earl Malmsteen

      It’s the biggest difference from last season so of course people are going to dwell on it. I think 80% of the talk and rightly so is on the starters but you are kidding yourself if you think the bench upgrades aren’t a big deal on all fronts. Are you telling me you didn’t cringe when Sam Young touched the ball last year? Even Sam Young cringed when Sam Young touched the ball last year!

      • Realist

        Haha. Poor Sam Young.

        • Derek U

          Sam Young, the turnover machine. His parents even cringed.

  • Matthew Smith

    Yeah, the only thing I’d say is that 5 assists and 0 turnovers is an A for CJ. I suppose if he hits one of those 3 FGs, you’d have bumped him up though, eh? Also, loved how PG started the 3rd quarter by attacking the rim. 2 straight layups out of halfcourt drives really seemed to deflate Memphis and get Paul going at the same time. Last year, those are plays he might have settled on, and tonight, he just asserted his will instead.

    Realist, you’re right and more. There’s way too much George Hill hating when he’s the only guy (outside of CJ now) who can really get us into our offense, make the simple distributions, and put the creators in position to succeed … consistently. That’s not even mentioning the big shots he’s hit for us in crunch time over and over, when our offense sputters and we need someone to hit a shot late in the shot clock or the game itself. THAT’S not even mentioning how much better of a defender he is than any other traditional point that too many fans wish we had. His ability to guard a 2 is what allows Paul to guard the superstar point guards (CP3, Rose, D-Will etc.). We need George Hill, Pacers fans!

    • Realist

      Thank you. Lost count of the number of times GH has won us games by himself these past couple years, both off the bench and starting.

    • ConRich

      Absolutely agree. Plus, the only thing a “pure” point guard adds that George Hill lacks is consistent penetration that causes the defense to collapse, opening up perimeter looks. We get that from Stephenson and George.

      Additionally, we have one David West who’s an adept facilitator from the post. When you have a post player who draws doubles, it creates the same collapsing effect as dribble penetration. George Hill fits this team.

      Oh, and the fact that he’s an absolute stud in the clutch doesn’t hurt, either.

  • Joe Betz

    Pacers ball handling issues went away, mostly, with the addition of Watson and PGs and Lance’s growth over the past two seasons. Yeah, Hill says he’s not a “point guard, a guard,” but what his is really saying is that he can play the one and the two effectively–that he’s a basketball player who’s not one dimensional. This team is filled with players who do multiple things well (notice the glaring lack of Fs and Ds compared to last year’s game grades). Agree on grades; agree with the point that we don’t need some savior point guard. The Pacers have enough to beat pressure now: additions plus experience ftw.

    • Realist

      Agreed. Stand pat. Give Solo Hill’s minutes to Granger if you can and a little more if it’s not too disruptive. Get the 1-seed. See how you do.

      I’m betting on us.

      • Derek U

        Solo is already an amazing upgrade over Sam Young. I think with time he can be a good player, or the 3 & D player that seems to be coveted by the NBA these days.

    • Derek Cooper

      Wow_ the ballhandling improovement bodes very well for us against miamis pressure D …that and paul+lances ability to attack the basket…wonder if miami will even try that pressure D stuff on us this year… :) …don’t want to be overconfident or underestimate miamis defensive talent but we do look much improoved in ballhandling/driving.

  • Earl Malmsteen

    The Pacers aren’t going to have a lot of 10 assist nights from anyone, but they aren’t assembled or coached that way. I actually like the fact that the Pacers have more than one guy who can handle the ball and pass it. Having 3 guys averaging 4-5 assists a game is a great recipe for a team that moves the ball. That’s also a sign of good coaching. In the past (I’m even going back to the Reggie days) the Pacers seemed to have a tendency to stand around on offense a lot and spin their wheels. It was practically New York’s entire offense last year in the Conference Semis. This team moves themselves and moves the ball constantly. When things aren’t going well for the starters now, it’s just missing shots and usually they’re decent shots. I think all of us can live with that.

  • Daniel Glover

    I’m so happy to see this team playing like they are with a seemingly different hero every night. But I must ask, where is the attendance? We are 8-0 with the #1 Power Ranking in the league coming off the 7th game of an Eastern Conference finals, yet we can only manage 87% occupancy of the voted #1 arena in the NBA? We sit at 25th in NBA attendance just like last year. I’m not asking us to reach top 10, BLFH doesn’t hold enough. The team is doing its part putting the best product on the floor. It is time for the fans to do theirs/ours. It is only 5 home games in, but hopefully we see an improvement.

    • fakepoot

      silver lining: compare the home court attendance ratio of Pacers fans : Bulls fans when Chicago comes to Indy
      3 years ago – 80% bulls fans?
      2 years ago – 50% bulls fans
      1 year ago – 20 bulls fan maybe?
      this year – ~10% bulls fans

      at least we are starting to own our city

      • Derek U

        Word. From what ‘ve heard, it was likely less than 10% this last game.

    • Derek U

      even if we were 100% occupancy, we’d still be what? the 13th best attendance team in the league? Maybe one day some of us will be able to afford the season ticket package, I even thought about the G2 zone but I can’t guarantee myself to go to 41 games a year, and moving your tickets is frowned upon. (also, G2 > Area 55, at least last year anyways)

  • Ian

    I wasn’t enthusiastic about the signing of CJ Watson, but he’s been so perfect for this team. He’s not going to have any highlight reel assists but he’s calm and steady and doesn’t make stupid decisions, plus he’s big and fits into the team’s defensive schemes.

    So as awesome as it is to see Lance ripping it up, anyone else scared he’s going to price himself out of the Pacer’s range this season?

    • lil-bang

      I have been saying this all season. If Lance continues like this, he will play himself out on Indiana. From the articles written on here before it said the best the Pacers can give him is like 6 mil a year. Hopefully that is good enough with a 4 or 5 year deal (whatever they can give him). I hope he understands that he most likely wouldn’t even be in the NBA anymore if it weren’t for Larry Bird, but I will bet he signs a contract with someone else to where the Pacers won’t even be able to match without going over cap (which we know they won’t do).

      • lil-bang

        Also, If he gets a deal that is 2 more mil a year somewhere else I wouldn’t be mad at him for taking it. Hard to turn down that kind of money. These guys never know when their last game is.

        • Derek U

          I learned the hard way that Lance is a UFA. Since his rookie contrat was a 4 year deal for a second round prospect, for him to be a restricted free agent, he would have to had signed a 3 year contract max. So there will be no “matching offers” from the Pacers. They’ll haveto give him a 2 year contract for 4-5 million witih the promise of a long term larger contract in the future if they want to stay under the cap.

        • Derek Cooper

          Eh…if he’s good enough at the end of the year mr. Bird can always do a little wheeling+ dealing to make room for him….

  • fakepoot

    The assessment of Solo Hill was way off.
    The play that stands out to me was when he got the ball in the corner and attempted a bevy of jukes and spins before Quincy Poindexter easily ripped the ball away from him.

    SO for now, Solo, please don’t attack the rim. You don’t have what it takes even against average NBA defenders. Space the floor, set some picks, and try to make your impact on defense.

    But i agree, at least he’s better than Sam Young….

    • Derek U

      3 & D. That’s all we need from him in the future.

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