Post-Game Grades: Pacers Top Durant, Thunder to Inch Closer to Top Seed

The Good – The entire bench, which has been a rarity this season, and Mr. Born Ready.

When given opportunities, the effect of C.J. Watson is hit or miss …. literally.  Entering the game in the first quarter playing nearly half of the period, Watson was able to contribute to the 22-point first for Indiana by nailing two 3-pointers.  That boost immediately matched the offensive intensity Kevin Durant was bringing early, as the sure-fire MVP came out blazing with 12 quick points.

Watson stayed in his aggressive mode from the outside all game, leading the bench with 20 points while hitting 4-of-7 3-pointers.  Part of the criticism Indiana has faced is that they don’t possess perimeter threats, but at least Oklahoma City can beg to differ.  Three players off the bench — Watson, Scola, Mahinmi — combined for 41 points, and it’s better to show up late in the season than not at all.

Lance Stephenson’s fiery character counts for a few stretches each and every game, and his 5th triple double of the season caught the Thunder off guard.  On Fan Appreciation Night, Stephenson showed why the Pacers absolutely have to work out a deal for him in the summer.

The Bad – Roy Hibbert, “the big dog,” or whatever he goes by these days.  The offense is worse than bad.

His ability as a rim protector justifies why Indiana was +7 in points when he was on the floor, but you can’t go 2-of-21 in your last three games.  Nope.

MVP – Stephenson and Watson can share the honors.

In this league, there are only three options to stopping Oklahoma City.  There’s having a top three superstar (Miami), being able to explode from the outside, or at least matching the energetic Russell Westbrook, who enjoyed staring at the G2 Zone that decided to fire him up for a questionable reason.  On Sunday, the Pacers accomplished the latter two options, and it’s because of none other than these two.

When your own superstar, Paul George, has a hard time scoring in the middle or penetrating on Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, others have to fill the void.  Check.

LVP – George Hill, as there was no way to pinpoint exactly how he affected the game as much as Evan Turner (4 assists in 19 minutes).  Hill also continues to stray away from attacking on offense, and that’s not a great thing as the playoffs approach next weekend.

X Factor – Ian Mahinmi, the backup center actually available.

Mahinmi is providing more consistent offense than Hibbert, and he stayed active on the offensive glass during pivotal moments that could’ve ended in Thunder fast breaks.  Give the Frenchman credit for making the best of what he’s offered.

Oklahoma City Thunder 97 FinalRecap | Box Score 102 Indiana Pacers
David West, PF 33 MIN | 9-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTS | +4Veteran leader, who blocked the Durantula in a crucial 4th quarter possession.
Paul George, SF 36 MIN | 6-17 FG | 5-5 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | -2The most formidable rebounding force for the day, and that means something against such a physical frontcourt.
Roy Hibbert, C 27 MIN | 0-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | +7Rim protecting defense was superb, but the horrible offense is more than a problem …. it’s becoming a disaster.
George Hill, PG 23 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -4Where’s the same person that took it to Damian Lillard in February’s OT victory?
Lance Stephenson, SG 41 MIN | 7-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 11 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 17 PTS | +6Born as the league’s triple double leader. Stephenson recorded his fifth on Sunday.
Luis Scola, PF 15 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +1
If Houston-type Scola is back, I might never leave my seat for the playoffs.
Evan Turner, SF 19 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 0 PTS | +6Setting up teammates was his greatest aspect for the day, but at least he’s not gunning away when he’s on the floor.
Ian Mahinmi, C 21 MIN | 4-4 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -2More offensive poise than Roy, and had the confidence to battle with Ibaka, who is known to deliver some hardcore blows.
C.J. Watson, PG 25 MIN | 6-10 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +9Veteran backup, 3-point savior. Continue to show Hill the ropes.
Frank Vogel
Resting may not have been a bad thing after all. Magic number is now 1 to lock up the East’s top seed.

Tags: Game Recap Indiana Pacers

  • Jaret Binford

    Such a great game. I agree Roy was horrible, but he looks so much more engaged. That is just “body-doctor-type” talk, but I think it counts for something. His offense was really discouraging, and you can’t miss so many easy/great looks, but his defense and hustle drew my admiration. If we have that Roy Hibbert, we are dangerous.

  • Earl Malmsteen

    I thought Turner played well. He was creating for teammates and playing unselfishly. Made some great decisions and played hard on defense.

    I still wish the starters weren’t playing 3-on-5 on offense, but the ball was moving which is so encouraging. I really hope Hill gets some confidence and Roy can do something on offense come playoff time. His D is great, but as Bill Simmons pointed out, it’s like he’s turned into Hasheem Thabeet.

    Roy’s rebounding was still really weak in spots too. Van Gundy made a very good observation on the broadcast that he’s blocking out well at times, but not getting his hands up to actually grab the ball.

    One final thing that was really encouraging: the Pacers were actually getting in the offense quickly. In a lot of their games recently, they don’t start moving until 10-14 seconds left on the shot clock. Today, they were often into the flow with 18-20 left, which made a huge difference in getting some better looks and not having to resort to bad ISOs.

  • Jack Wright

    give the ball to lance and good things will happen

  • Realist

    The Bynum signing was the best thing to happen to Ian Mahinmi

  • Joe Betz

    Hibbert and Hill’s no-show offensively is discouraging, but knowing that the Pacers are now deep enough for other players to step up, especially from the bench, is a huge relief going into the playoffs. CJ’s absence was a large factor in the Pacers terrible play post-break, and he has now essentially won 3 games for the Pacers with his scoring, something I didn’t really expect. Also, I love how active his hands are on defense. Concerning Mahinmi, if the Andrew Bynum bring-in has done anything, it’s fired him up. He is playing his best basketball of the year. Does that make me feel better against a team with swarming defense like Miami? Not really–Hill and Hibbert HAVE to score consistently.

  • llcoolray3000

    Similar to how they were winning games earlier in the year: Stephenson messing around and getting a triple-double, David West hitting mid-range, some random guy leading the scoring… Hibbert not being able to get his offense going and Hill’s lack of interest in shooting the ball is off-putting, though.

  • thetechnicaltake

    It should be obvious what is ailing the Pacer’s offense….the first thing is moving the ball up and down the floor; if the Pacers can get shots before the defense sets up, they seem to do better; this is why the Pacers do better when Stephenson does better. This is why they did better today.

    The second thing is floor spacing. CJ Watson clearly provides that. In fact, Chris Copeland provides this as well, and it is unclear to me why he doesn’t play more. Can anyone shed light on the Copeland situation? Evan Turner does not provide floor spacing and this is an issue BUT I think/ hope Turner (or Eric Turnover as I like to call him) may have found a new role. He does make some nifty passes and he seem to relish his role as a distributor today. I am not sure what to do with Turner — he is poor on defense and he turns the ball over….make him a point guard?

  • thechamp5400

    1. Roy had actually a good game, I think . He was engaged, fought for the ball and eventually got as many 50-50 balls as over the last 20 games combined. Had he nailed his shots, he would have been an A candidate.
    2. Turner had acutally a good game passing, he was the only one to give the ball to a burning Watson.
    3.Turner won’t be able to replace Lance. Keep Lance!!! (Speaking of that, I would try to get a 2-year deal for Lance with lesss money made, so he can eventually get an even bigger one after that short contract).

  • Ian

    A thousand turnovers but Vogel was right at least a lot of them were the result of trying to share the ball.
    Given recent events I kept expecting the Thunder to go on a 20-4 run at some point but it never happened.

    Vogel looks like a genius for resting the team against the Bucks, not so much because of the jolt it gave the starters but because it filled the bench with confidence. If Miami loses before wednesday I wonder if he’ll consider doing it again against Orlando?

    Hibbert looked engaged, even though his stat line was down. I don’t know what is wrong with G Hill. You can excuse him a bit for having to chase Westbrook but it doesn’t explain the longer lasting issues.

    Mahinmi gets extra credit for taking two players out of the game, though neither were thankfully intentional!

    • Realist

      If Washington beats Miami, he absolutely should bench/rest the starters again at Orlando. Not just for rest, but more so the same risk as the Bucks game – how denting would a loss be.

      lol Mahinmi is a boss.