Give the Pacers credit. It didn't end up being easy. They shot under 40% again, turned it over 16 times, got passive, played dumb...but in the end, it resulted in a W. Smash mouth basketball from the blue and gold, the kind Frank Vogel wants, led by another well rounded team effort capped by David West and Danny Granger, but fueled by the rest of the starting lineup.
I hate to say we could get used to this, but...
Lockout effects lingered throughout the game, particularly early where neither team wanted to hit a basket, resulting in an ugly 18-11 first quarter, advantage Pacers. Advantage Pacers was a common theme as Indiana lead through most of the game, but Toronto played tough when they needed to, but Indiana managed to respond with quick runs of their own to keep the Raptors at bay.
When Indiana pushed the game into double figures late in the third quarter on a 9-2 run, it seemed they may finally settle into a groove and put the Raptors away. But DeMar DeRozan, held scoreless in the first half, began to lead the Raptors back, with 15 of his game high 22 points in the fourth quarter, helping to slice away at 12-point Pacer lead with four minutes to go.
Wait, a lead late in a game with four minutes to go? It seemed that was the very thing that plagued the Pacers in the playoffs this past spring. Just like that, Toronto went on a 7-0 run to cut it to five. The Pacers, with the ball, could barely get a decent offensive possession, much less a good basket. It looked no different when Darren Collison fumbled about, flipping the ball Danny Granger with the clock running down. Granger, 0-3 from range on the night, hit a huge three pointer.
Even after the three, the Toronto comeback went on, immediately, six more Raptors points cut the once double figure lead down to two. But again, it was Danny Granger stepping up with a clutch triple. When Toronto once again cut the lead to a single possession, Indiana needed to get one more answer. It would come down to a last pass from Collison to a covered David West, who drilled a jumper to put the game out of reach.
The struggles Indiana had late in games appeared to have an answer tonight. David West was brought in to be a x-factor to not only the Pacers front court, but an x-factor to the Pacers all together. And that move was justified tonight in a big way. As Tom said just yesterday, "Pacers winning ugly, always a beautiful sight."
After the jump, more beauty in ugly.
- Danny Granger struggled from outside all night, but managed to hit a pair of great three pointers at the end to salvage his struggles from deep, but still had an overall positive game, even if the shooting numbers were fairly subpar at 8-19. Danny made some solid (read: veteran savvy) moves inside to get some shots to go in as he finished with 21, but also played well on the defensive end while having 8 rebounds (three on the offensive side). It wasn't his best game, but his positives were just what the Pacers needed. A little more consistency in his jumper and the team will be in great shape with Danny.
- David West found his shot tonight, resulting in a big 14 points to help Indiana pull out the win. His play on both ends of the floor was exactly what the Pacers have been missing. Reading up on West, it's hard to believe he's as physical of a player as he is without having that reputation. His play not only helped the team, but also helped the play of Roy Hibbert, who himself had a quiet double double of 12 and 10. Hibbert's play inside was once again solid, above 50%, and with purpose, getting about all he wanted when given the opportunity.
- Paul George had himself a great game early on, helping the Pacers to build and maintain their lead throughout. He hit his first four three pointers, kept DeMar DeRozan under check for the first half, and had 18 points. Darren Collison had a quiet, but tremendous game. Not only did he show up defensively with a pair of steals, but also his first double double of the season, finishing up with 10 points and 12 assists, his fifth time in double figure assists as a Pacer.
- Off the bench, George Hill continued to struggle and look passive. When he squared up for a shot, it didn't go in, when he had the chance, he looked to make the extra pass. It's the hope that he'll find his groove, but at this point, he's showing very little to make his press worthwhile. Lou Amundson also made his Pacers debut, passing with flying colors as the hustle guy he was billed as being. Pacers fans no doubt see shades of Jeff Foster in Amundson's game, and with a little bit of help rebounding, could certainly be the player in that void, though without the amusing ire from Chicago fans.