Faced with a much needed win against the freefalling Cavaliers, Indiana managed to keep Cleveland at bay despite numerous efforts from the visiting team to make a push to snap their own losing streak. The Pacers entered the game on a three game losing streak where they didn’t make themselves competitive in any of them, Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger were struggling extensively, and the mood from the largely positive start had become difficult to handle.
The Pacers and Cavs fought close in the first quarter, Anthony Parker leading the way for Cleveland with two first quarter three pointers. The Pacers held a slim lead before Cleveland closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to take a lead after one. Danny Granger hit the team’s first three pointer in the second quarter, one of his four, to erase Cleveland’s lead for good. But the Cavaliers weren’t about to mail in as Antawn Jamison put in 9 second quarter points to go with two more Parker three pointers.
Indiana struggled in the first half with perimeter defense. The Cavaliers came into the game shooting poorly in the series from the three point arc, but failed to adjust to a suddenly hot Anthony Parker, who led the Cavs to five first half three pointers, while the Pacers struggled to find their rhythm from deep. With the Pacers up just two, James Posey took the final shot of the half, drilling a big three pointer to put Indiana up 5 at the half.
The biggest advantage in the first half for Indiana was that they didn’t allow an offensive rebound until they grabbed an Anderson Varejao miss that ended up in Parker’s hands. For all the problems Indiana had been having in second chance points, they did a great job crashing the boards and keeping Cleveland to one and done opportunities.
Roy Hibbert arrived in the second half as did the referee whistles. Hibbert had a quiet first half, but began to make big plays on both sides of the ball, and with each successive play, his smile slowly began to return. It’s just one step, but it’s important to get him back into it. Hibbert was big in the third quarter on the defensive end. There were a number of plays that he was instrumental in stopping the flow of the Cavaliers offense and forcing turnovers.
The foul whistles came out in the third quarter, disrupting the flow of the game, as 21 fouls were called on both sides in those twelve minutes alone. The Pacers pushed the game to double figures when Solomon Jones came in, and all of a sudden, the Cavs were able to push the ball inside, and found considerable success on pick and rolls to hit easy layups and/or get to the line.
Quite possibly the game deciding series came in this stretch with Cleveland down seven, Anthony Parker received the ball alone on the arc. His three pointer fell short, and Mike Dunleavy was able to get Parker in the air for three free throws of his own, to cap a six point turnaround. It proved to be important as J.J. Hickson had no problems getting to the free throw line before and afterwards. A strong close to the quarter, put the Pacers up ten into the final quarter.
At the beginning of the fourth, the whistles didn’t let up, and a questionable foul on Solomon Jones led him to get a technical. Jim O’Brien pulled Solo immediately, but the very next series, Solo was being tossed from the game for not letting it go. While the outcome of the game wasn’t in big enough jeopardy, it was a short sighted move from Jones, who spent the rest of the night in the locker room.
Of course, he wasn’t the only one flirting with the same fate. Hibbert and Varejao wound up with double technicals, as did O’Brien, for questioning a rather effective Varejao flop. Despite a tightly called fourth quarter, the Pacers were able to keep Cleveland at bay thanks to 17 points from Granger and Brandon Rush. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was a stepping stone victory to hopefully be used to get the team to return to better play.
After the jump, more on the game, including a report on the team’s biggest problems:
- The Pacers improved their rebounding standard by only allowing 4 offensive rebounds on 1 second chance point. Considering the game ended within single digits, the team’s ability to crash the boards and prevent easy points for Cleveland proved to be a huge advantage. While they lost the turnover and free throw battles, they were up and remained competitive through most of the game in both. The team also shot 47%, while holding Cleveland to 41.5%.
- Danny Granger completed his second double double of the year, finishing with 30 points and 12 rebounds. Granger was extremely active tonight as he helped keep Cleveland at a workable deficit all night, finishing with three blocks for good measure. The Pacers also improve to 4-0 when Granger hits 30 points in regulation.
- Roy Hibbert found his swagger in the second half by working well on both ends of the floor. He put some nice moves on Anderson Varejao, finishing with 15 points on 6-13 shooting, as well as collecting 6 blocked shots on the opposition.
- Josh McRoberts played one of his best all around games of late tonight, making plays, nice dunks, and causing some fits for the Cavaliers inside. He couldn’t get any breaks on the foul side of things, but did play well in spite of the recent benching rumors.
- Brandon Rush finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds, 7 of those points coming in the final period, a nice addition for our improving two guard. One of the nicest surprises about his game tonight was his ability to get to the free throw line and convert. Indiana only shot 74% from the line tonight, but Rush converted on six of his attempts.
- Mike Dunleavy and James Posey each played key roles in swinging the game in Indiana’s favor. The two combined for four three pointers (five if you count Dunleavy’s three foul shots) and eleven rebounds, which helped keep Indiana up and ahead through every Cleveland surge.
- The play from Darren Collison and T.J. Ford was quiet offensively, but did a nice job of distributing. Each had six assists (Collison ended up with zero turnovers) to help facilitate the good offensive play, even if neither shot the bell well tonight.
The Pacers get back in the win column and will travel to Boston for a Sunday afternoon game against the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are red hot, but will be without Rajon Rondo, and have been dealing with a few injuries along the way. The Pacers catch Boston at their most shorthanded yet, but it will still take a lot to pull out the win. The game will not be televised in Indiana, and with the Colts playing the biggest game of their season, not many eyes will be on this one. Regardless, it’ll be important for the Pacers build upon their play tonight.