Indiana Pacers 104, Toronto Raptors 93: Hibbert, George Help Secure Win In Frank Vogel's Coaching Debut

Frank Vogel  said to stay tuned for adjustments to the Indiana Pacers' playing rotation. He also mentioned that sometimes the young players can make the plays needed to win games.

In his first game, those words played out on the court with Roy Hibbert and Paul George making key plays at both ends of the floor to help the Pacers secure a 104-93win over the Toronto Raptors.

It wasn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination. The Raptors simply aren't a good basketball team right now, but after jumping out to a 20-point second quarter lead, the Pacers let off the gas and started letting go of the basketball in bunches.

A 23-3 run by Toronto eventually tied the game early in the third quarter and then the bulk load of turnovers by the Pacers kept the game a little too close for the remainder of the game. In fact, the Pacers were fortunate to win a game after turning the ball over 25 times. But the close game also had the benefit of forcing Vogel to coach the full 48 minutes and make decisions down the stretch.

One of those decisions was sticking with rookie Paul George down the stretch. After the game, Vogel mentioned that George was playing well enough that the coach thought he deserved to play down the stretch. Two blocked shots and a steal highlighted a good defensive effort  from George who also finished with 16 points bolstered by making 7 of 8 free throws.

Roy Hibbert's 24 points and 11 rebounds stick out on the stat sheet, but his defense down the stretch play a big role in securing the win. As the game wore on, the positive and assertive body language from Hibbert was evident. He was looking to make plays with the ball, instead of hoping he could make plays.

Hibbert's play was just one of several indications that the players were enjoying the fresh atmosphere surrounding the team after the coaching change yesterday. The game left plenty of problems to clean up and it is probably a good thing the Pacers play Cleveland on the road in their next game because that may be just enough of a test to show some improvement from tonight. But taking care of these games against sub-.500 teams is the only way the Pacers can finish the season on a positive note.

After the jump, more thoughts and observations on the game.

  • Young players made it happen for the Pacers as they played through their mistakes and found a way to finish. While there were big turnover numbers from Darren Collison (6), Hibbert (5) and Danny Granger (4), there were also big scoring numbers from the young guys with Hibbert (24), George (16), Collison (16) and Tyler Hansbrough (14).
  • Danny Granger had a rough night shooting just 3 of 15 from the floor, but he showed up as a role player with 9 rebounds and 5 assists. His turnovers came when he tried to force the action, but his presence certainly kept Toronto's attention and when Granger stayed within the offense taking part in the ball and player movement, the offense worked much better. No surprise.
  • Tyler Hansbrough returned from illness to play limited minutes. But while his minutes were limited his effort wasn't. Hans went strong for 15 minutes and finished with 14 points and 6 rebounds. Vogel appears set to use Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts for the bulk of the power forward minutes going forward once Hans is fully healthy. Hansbrough gives the second unit a little more scoring punch and I'm sure Vogel will go with the PF that has it going better from night-to-night down the stretch.
  • After the game, Hansbrough and Paul George both commented on the relief they felt knowing their role heading into a game. Dahntay Jones was active and played about 10 minutes with the second unit. He even knocked down a 3-pointer in the second quarter. After his initial run, the FSN Indiana cameras caught Vogel givine Dahntay an atta boy fist bump on the bench.
  • T.J. Ford and James Posey both logged DNP-CDs which should also indicate Vogel's preferred role for the veteran players whose names we'll likely hear in trade chatter leading up to the trade deadline.
  • The Pacers jumped out to a strong start in the first 19 minutes of the game. Mike Dunleavy  didn't finish the game, giving way to Paul George, but he did help the team get off to a good start, scoring all 8 of his points in the first quarter.
  • There were some fun plays on the night, including a surprising dunk from Darren Collison in the first half when he charged across the lane and then threw down a one-handed dunk on the fly. Collison also finished the game with an ill-advised 3-pointer at the buzzer which didn't appear to sit too well with the Raptors. Considering this was the Raps' 12th straight loss, they have bigger problems.
  • Another fourth-quarter beauty came after a steal by Josh McRoberts. J-Mac pushed the ball up-court and eventually tossed a little lob to Paul George who gathered the pass and threw down a dunk to finish the play. Darren Collison turned the ball over a couple of times ealier trying to complete transition opportunities so it was strange to see the team's PF make the break work.
  • There was a really sparse crowd at the game thanks to an ice storm that hit Indy around rush hour. At times you could hear the Raptors bench erupt after a good play. I can't believe anyone went to the game considering the conditions on the north side of town, at least. In fact, I'd love to hear the horror stories about the drive home from those who did attend. Hopefully all make it safely home or found a place to stay downtown.
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