Post-Game Grades: Pacers Look Like Pacers of March, Take 3-2 Series Lead via Domination


There they are. Wondered what happened to you guys. Nice to see you again. Thought maybe I said something wrong and we weren’t friends anymore.

Both David West and Jay Nilla summed this one up pretty well.

It really is that simple.

The Pacers were an elite to borderline-elite team for several months this regular season because they played a brand of defense unmatched leaguewide. It wasn’t just tops in the NBA. It was altogether suffocating and brought a level of physicality that no other team was comfortable playing against.

In late March, when they were playing at their absolute apex, they were lapping the rest of the league, allowing a full two points per 100 possessions less than Memphis, the second stingiest defense in the league. I know some of you don’t follow the per-100 stuff, but just trust me here: that is a Grand Canyon chasm to have between the two top teams. It was also the best defense in Pacers history.

Tonight, they got back to that.

They also blended it with some excellent offensive punch at time. Specifically, they started off the game making everything, hitting shot upon shot as they pounded the ball inside to Roy Hibbert and David West, and ran the pick-and-roll to force the Atlanta defense to rotate.

They turned the ball over way too much, but outside of the sloppiness, the process looked good.

Then there was David West. So much David West.

He was incredible. He didn’t care who was guarding him. He forced the action at times, demanding his defender relent and sacrifice space until he had a layup. Or, he just popped the little midrange jumper. At one point, he was feeling it so much that he basically took off up court before he had released the shot. He had no question the ball was going it. It looked like a bowler on his way to a 300 game turning and walking away from a strike.

Paul George was also brilliant. His “day and night” comment couldn’t have applied more to himself if he had tried. Which, was sorta the beauty of his game tonight: He didn’t try that hard. It all just came to him, and he handed out the devastation whenever the opportunity presented it.

We can’t talk about this game without mentioning the disgusting, revolting, had-to-be-put-down-with-rabies third quarter. I sorta refuse though. Just know this: It was so foul-ridden and the refs so greatly lost control of how a basketball game needs to be officiated that it took an hour. I’m not exaggerating.

It was no better in the early fourth. Fortunately, the Hawks got bored, started taking bad shots and the Pacers hit enough shots to put them away pretty quickly. It was garbage time halfway into the period.

Despite the quarter that shall never be mentioned again, all in all, this was a great win. It’s the type of victory you expect a good team to get. Even better really given how dominant they were in the second half, out-scoring Atlanta 56-40 as the Hawks made just 10-of-34 shots (28.6%).

Now, they head to Atlanta, a place I wrote yesterday was a less likely site for a Pacers win than Atlantis.

We’ll see if this team — this March-esque juggernaut squad that seems more than capable of making the Eastern Conference Finals — shows up.

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 35 MIN | 11-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 24 PTS | +24

His best game as a Pacer? What an animal. I’ve been saying it for over a year now: David West is the Pacers.Paul George, SF 34 MIN | 7-8 FG | 5-7 FT | 10 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | +18

Didn’t force almost anything. Picked his spots and went to work a few times, but never looked like he felt he had to Be The Man. That’s a good thing. Also, and please forgive me for this term. I don’t think I’ve ever used it. I’ll try not to again, but I have no other way to say it, and it’s something his generation might say. You know how you can tell when Paul George is super comfortable and confident? When he thinks this league is HIS? When he grabs these swagger-boards — playing around with the ball or posing on his landing like an 18-year-old playing with 14-year-olds — and then just stalks his way up court. All is right in the World of PG when he’s doing that. He did it a lot tonight. He does it less on the road. (On the grade: He only doesn’t get the A+ because he wasn’t David West tonight.)Roy Hibbert, C 35 MIN | 3-7 FG | 12-14 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 18 PTS | +22

18 points on 9 shots is ri-dic-u-lous. Big fella did his job and then some. Made some nice passes even.George Hill, PG 36 MIN | 5-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 10 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +24

Good to see the pod person that stole his body in Georgia has been discovered for his deceit and brought to justice. Nice to have George Hill back.Lance Stephenson, SG 38 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 12 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +25

If anything, he was too discerning, too patient, too unwilling to make moves off the bounce in the half court. Lovely otherwise. Made some nice drive-and-kicks and extra swing passes on the wing when he could have easily taken the shot himself. It’s weird just how willing he is to do that.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 13 MIN | 1-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 3 PTS | -1

Turn the ball over a few more times, how ’bout? Action on the offensive glass.Jeff Pendergraph, PF 9 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1

I really had no desire to see him play on the wing next to Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert. But to his credit, he had a few nice defensive possessions guarding Josh Smith. Then Smith brought him down on the block and treated him like a truck stop toilet seat: no respect. Pendergraph left the game second later, ending the three-big experiment (hopefully for good).Gerald Green, SF 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

Tiempo De La Basura.Ian Mahinmi, C 9 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | 0

Thought he played some decent defense. Got whistled for a few fouls, like most people. You can tell he hasn’t played much lately.D.J. Augustin, PG 25 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +3

Making those threes late. (Two came once the game was well over.) Did nice work to create a few, too, but also dribbled aimlessly around the lane a few times to no effect.Orlando Johnson, SG 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -2

Tiempo De La Basura. Coach even called a timeout to get him into the game, up by 25, with about 2 minutes left. Still won’t give him any minutes when the contest is undecided though.Frank Vogel

Some strange lineups. Worked though.