Pacers 101, Hornets 98: Hansbrough, Bench Help Pacers Hold Off Hornets

Something positive finally showed up off the bench.

Jim O'Brien was frustrated with the effort off the bench, desperate to see someone step up an seize the open roles in the playing rotation. For one night anyway, he saw more of what he was looking for from his second unit including 19 points from second-year forward Tyler Hansbrough.

The Indiana Pacers beat the New Orleans Hornets 101-98 at Conseco Fieldhouse to move to 2-3 in the preseason, but the game's outcome is not as meaningful as the many parts of the game and different player combinations that led to the final result.

Tonight the second unit not only played well for the Pacers, but they saved the game. After the jump, check out the break down of the key plays and players.

After an intense burst by the starters set a solid defensive tone to start the game, the second unit maintained the intensity and added a scoring punch helping the Pacers jump out to a double-digit lead which was at 15 at the break.

Defense helped fuel the offense as the Pacers were tied together quite well in the paint, protecting the rim and holding the Hornets to 40 first half points.

There were plenty of fast breaks and a few noteworthy finishes including dunks by Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts to add a little flavor. Serisously, it was a shame they had to stop for halftime because I could've watched that action for hours. The half fittingly ended with the buzzer sounding as Hansbrough's last-second jump hook bounced around the rim before falling through. All was good.

Well, not all.

Danny Granger did hobble off the court in the second quarter after spraining his ankle on a drive to the hoop. Considering it is a sprain and he did indeed limp off to the locker room on his own power, I'm assuming it shouldn't put a full damper on the evening even though the ankle swelled up and should keep him sidelined for a few days.

Granger by the way, showed up quite well contributing without scoring. His defensive effort was real strong, especially near the hoop. He was credited with one blocked shot but he had another one right in front of me that was credited to Josh McRoberts. He was also active on the glass again.

Something more than Granger was missing when the second half started, though. Within the first four minutes, the Pacers coughed up the 15-point halftime lead and it certainly wasn't all the fault of Dahntay Jones who started the half for Granger.

The team defensive effort that was so tied together in the fist half vanished. They seemed to feed off each other in the first half but instead the Hornets feasted on the lack of energy and resistance around the rim. Shots were no longer contested and New Orleans made the Pacers pay.

After the Hornets pushed the lead up to three midway through the third, the Pacers second unit started rolling. Tyler Hansbrough scored 11 points in the quarter, repeatedly working over Joe Alexander and by the end of the third, the Pacers were back up 80-77.

JOB found a something that worked with Hansbrough, Paul George, James Posey, A.J. Price and Roy Hibbert. At one point, the coach said they called Hansbrough's number eight straight times until the Hornets adjusted, but not before Hansbrough poured in 11 points.

That group of mostly bench players turned things around at the defensive end until the offense started rolling. Posey by the way, hit a pair of threes, one to stop the bleeding and another to push momentum back in the Pacers direction. From there, Hansbrough took over.

The Pacers held onto the lead but the game remained tight the rest of the way. JOB said it wasn't a thing of beauty and there's not disputing that comment. Late game possessions were defined more by the effort shown than the execution.

After Darren Collison missed on a drive to try to extend the Pacers' one point lead with the seconds winding down, he kept the loose rebound alive for Josh McRoberts to dive on. With the possession preserved, James Posey would eventually hit a pair of free throws to provide the final deficit.

A few more notes:

  • Roy Hibbert put up decent numbers but struggled in the low post. The go-to moves weren't falling and often were stymied by the defense, with no counter.
  • Paul George was rookie-solid in an all-around way. His effort on the glass and at the defensive end was great. At one point, getting switched onto Chris Paul with the ball, George moved his feet and eventually stopped CP3's dribble. PG had a dagger shot with 45 seconds left and the Pacers up 3, but it bounced giving the Hornets life to extend the game. He was also a late game defensive sub, taking the court after Posey was fouled. He appears entrenched in the playing rotation at this point.
  • One late game possession with DC, Posey, Hansbrough, Hibbert, Dunleavy setting up a set but they had to call a timeout when he and Posey couldn't get on the same page. Two teammates in a new system.
  • Collison struggled at times against his former team. While he scored 16 points and dished out 5 assists he also had 7 turnovers.
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