Another game, another win for the Indiana Pacers, who start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2007-2008 (let’s forget what happened after that). I could get used to this.
In yet another struggle, the Pacers dodged a bullet and overcome no.1 overall pick Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-91 in OT. This was another scrappy game punctuated by an overall team performance with a few standouts, but to be fair, it should never have gotten this close.
After trailing for all of the first half (and by as much as 8 points), the Pacers turned it on in second half behindRoy Hibbert’s tremendous play and led by as much as 11 points. But then, coach Vogel inexplicably pulled out most of the starters, and with Dahntay Jones having a shocker, the Cavs eventually pulled back to take a 2-point lead late in the fourth. David West (14 points, 10 rebounds) responded with a huge basket, and on the final play of regulation, Irving missed an almost wide open, point blank layup at the buzzer he ordinarily would have made 99 times out of 100, allowing the Pacers to escape into overtime.
Once they got into OT, the Pacers steadied themselves. Danny Granger hit some big shots (9 of the team’s 14 points) and the Pacers held off the Cavs in the end.
A great effort all around for the Pacers again. Granger led the team in scoring again with 22 points (though another poor shooting night, 8-22 from the field), but it was really the play of Hibbert in the third quarter andGeorge Hill in the first half that allowed the Pacers to get in a position to win the game. Hibbert had 17 points and 13 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double, shot 7-11 from the field and swatted 3 big shots. Hill finally played his first decent game as a Pacer (just as well, Paul George had an off night) with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 massive steals.
Tyler Hansbrough continued to provide a power surge off the bench with yet another double-double of his own (11 points and 12 boards). In all, it was a stellar team effort and it’s good to see the team finding their identity — a mediocre offensive team (they shot under 40% for the third consecutive game) that plays smash mouth basketball, hustles, grabs offensive boards and grinds out victories. If they can only improve their offensive capabilities then they will be a team to be reckoned with.
One thing I have noticed is that Granger and West tend to play quite well together down the stretch. To be honest, when the clock is winding down and the team needs a basket, I feel most comfortable when the ball is in David West’s hands. Usually when the Pacers sign a highly touted player they suddenly turn to crap, but so far, even with the rust from his ACL surgery, West is proving to be a great signing, giving the Pacers exactly the type of poise down the stretch they need.
Moving forward, the Pacers clearly need to get a lot better, especially offensively and taking care of the basketball. Shooting below 40% is not going to get it done against quality teams. So far they have played three of the worst teams in the league, so while it’s nice to be 3-0, they have a lot of work to do if they want to stay above 0.500 with all the road games coming up.