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Pacers off to 6-2 start by routing Bobcats

Pacers vs Bobcats at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  A tale of two halves.  

In the first, the Pacers were sluggish and allowed too many second chance points, while the Bobcats looked energetic and confidence despite an overtime loss the night before.  The result was a 49-43 deficit at the half.  Coach Frank Vogel must have worked his magic during halftime, because the second half was a completely different story.  The Pacers rebounded, shared the ball and played D, holding the Bobcats to 14 points in each of the third and fourth quarters to end up convincing victors, 99-77.

Hibbert top scored with 20 points, plus 8 boards and 3 blocks (despite a scary turned ankle in the second half, which he returned from), but it was another all round effort. Hansbrough was big with 15 and 6 while shooting 50% from the floor.  Collison continued to show his improvement with 14 points, 4 assists and 8 rebounds while also shooting over 50%.  George Hill had 13 points on 6-8 shooting despite being body-slammed by Gerald Henderson.  Jeff Foster was again a monster on the boards, grabbing 7 rebounds (3 offensive) and scoring 2 points in just 13 minutes!  David West had 10 and Granger had 13 in another off shooting night (though 4-12 is not that bad for him these days).  That said, Granger did hit a couple of timely baskets again put more ice on an almost-iced game, something he has been doing all season.

As a team, they shot 50.6% from the field (about time!), had 6 steals, 6 blocks and only 11 turnovers.  Sure, the Bobcats aren’t much, but it’s nice to see the team get an easy victory for a change, especially on the second night of a back-to-back and after looking like they were going to have a major letdown in the first half.

I am really liking what I am seeing from a few of the guys.  Hibbert is really starting to come into his own this season, but the key now is for him to maintain this level of play and confidence.  Let’s not forget everyone jumped on the bandwagon too early last year and he buckled under the pressure.  Collison is developing into the type of player the Pacers expected him to be when they traded for him — he’ll never be a Derrick Rose or Chris Paul, but he has been effective in his own way.  George Hill, as well, despite a rough start, is becoming the player the Pacers wanted when they traded for him.  Steady, highly efficient and pretty good at creating plays for himself (though not much of a floor general).  As for David West, he hasn’t lived up to expectations in some ways, but it’s still early (he needs time to get his legs back after surgery) and he has been steady as a rock with his cool demeanor and professionalism. Once he gets his mid-range shot to become automatic again, look out.

As for concerns, the biggest continues to be Granger’s shooting.  We keep saying that it can’t last forever, but it’s 8 games in and the team’s leading scorer has yet to shoot over 37% in a single game.  Frightening.  Hansbrough’s defense is also a concern.  He can be effective offensively against the right team, but when his shot is off, he is ugly to watch, and with his inability to guard most NBA PFs, it’s a good thing the team has West and Foster.  And Dahntay Jones, who is a little bit of a double-edged sword.  He can be effective in transition and as a cutter, but he keeps trying to be a shooter and one-on-one player — and it’s vomit-inducing seeing him hand over possessions on a nightly basis. 

Anyway, with the win, the Pacers move to a 6-2 start and a 3-0 start at home, not bad if you consider that they played five times on the road.  On the other hand, it’s not completely unexpected given the calibre of opponents they have been up against.  Looking at the schedule before the season began, 6-2 would have been my predicted start for this team too (except I would have predicted them to beat Detroit and lose to the Celtics, not the other way around).

Moving forward, a real test on the road against the 76ers, a team many expected would be at the same rough level as the Pacers this season.  The 76ers are about to cruise to a crushing victory over the Raptors, moving them to 5-2, and their confidence will be high.  It’s a game I pencilled in as a loss before the season began, so let’s see how they perform.