It took an extra five minutes. It took a missed layup by Kyrie Irving at the end of regulation. It took weathering foul trouble, poor shooting, the worst first half in recent memory, and failure to win the 50/50 battles consistently, but the Indiana Pacers managed to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2007 with a gutsy overtime win against the Cavaliers.
Following a disastrous first half in which the Pacers couldn't get over the 1-point hump given poor decisions and poor offense, Indiana came out of the half looking far more like the team they should be rather than the team they've shown themselves as. It was Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger who helped give the blue and gold their first lead, and when the Pacers pushed the game into double digits, it looked like things may finally be coming together for the team.
After all, George Hill was finally hitting shots and making the plays he was picked up to make and the big fella was taking Hungry Hungry Hibbert to a whole new level with blocks, hustle plays, and effective post play. Taking a nine-point lead into the fourth, all that was left to do was keep pushing, in hopes of getting the young Cavs to fall off.
Unfortunately, the final twelve minutes turned into a hard fought nightmare, one in which the offense disappeared completely, ball movement stopped, and the Cleveland Cavaliers slowly chipped away at the Pacers' fourth quarter lead. Hill got a bulk of the minutes in the fourth quarter, and despite all of his positive play, stagnated the offense in places where Darren Collison has been a huge advantage in at least finding guys, even if the shots weren't going in.
When Hibbert used the team's final timeout to salvage a key late game possession with the Pacers up one, it was Hill who turned the ball over by stepping out of bounds, eventually setting up Cleveland with an Anthony Parker three pointer with 17 seconds remaining to put the Cavs up 2 points. Without a timeout, the Pacers scrambled, David West fumbled about, composing himself in time to hit a huge runner with 4 seconds left in the game.
Cleveland gave themselves another opportunity to get the win; the 2011 First Overall Pick Kyrie Irving penetrated the basket and it was Danny Granger who showed up just enough to alter the layup that rolled out, ending a madcap final minute that was as surreal as you will see. In the teams' first overtime period, Granger led the way with 9 points, including a dagger three pointer, one of the team's two on the night, to grind out a life shortening 98-91 victory.
The win not only improved the Pacers to 3-0 on the season, it also gives the team their third straight victory when shooting under 40%, putting together a Herculean 38.3% shooting effort. The lone positive in shooting for the blue and gold has been in their three point shooting, yet they were just 2-10 from range tonight, certainly aided by Cleveland's own woes of 38.6% and 5-25 three point shooting (not to mention them converting on just 58% of their free throws).
If Indiana was well ahead of the curve, it was in hustle plays. While Cleveland seemed to come up with every 50-50 ball, Indiana out-rebounded the Cavs by 11, including by 8 on the offensive glass. Three Pacers players ended up with double doubles on the night, West, Hibbert, and Tyler Hansbrough, all on double doubles. The whistles were all over the place as the teams were whistled for a combined 54 personal fouls, which included a pair of technicals, and timely whistle swallowing at junctions.
The Pacers defense has been praised through the first two games, but just how much came on actual defensive play vs. the level of opposition they faced? Despite some bad defensive play early and at stretches, the Pacers did make a number of fine defensive efforts. Ten blocks, nine steals, and winning the turnover battle (even with 16) helped aid the blue and gold defense in their quest for a real live winning streak.
After the jump, some individual looks that weren't all clanks:
- Roy Hibbert had a 17 and 13 double double, continues to shoot well above 50% on the year (7-11 tonight), had five offensive boards and three blocks, and had perhaps the best play of his young career. Following a block by Hibbert, he corralled the ball, and got it ahead to one of his teammates while falling out of bounds. It was the cap to an awe inspiring effort all around from Hibbert definitely helped give Indiana a little extra push through some rough stretches.
- Danny Granger led the way with a game high 22 points, including 9 in the overtime period, which helps expound the concern that the offense went away from Danny, as well as Hibbert, late in the fourth quarter. While Danny has had his struggles early on the year hitting from the outside, he is still the team's best option, especially given how effective he has been in getting shots around the basket. Another 7 boards and 4 assists helped really round out a nice night (despite poor shooting numbers).
- George Hill finally showed up. Concerns about his role with the team were lifted when he showcased some beautiful moves around the basket. Working inside/out worked for Hill, as he finally started seeing some jumpers sink through the basket. He finished with a season high 15 points and had four steals to go along with it. Unfortunately, if there's a negative in his game, it involves the offense when it runs through him. As the offense couldn't find a basket in the fourth quarter, Hill wasn't doing as well as Darren Collison (who had a quiet 11 & 4 night) at getting guys the basketball, or getting them the basketball in a good position. Whether this is something that can be alleviated with more time, it's not unfair to say he didn't make a lot of smart decisions late in regulation.
- David West once again helped bail the Pacers out of an all-to-familiar heartbreaking loss with a pair of soft runners that just seemed to automatically go in. His 14 & 10 was absolutely necessary in helping the blue and gold pull out the win tonight. While you can say he never leaves the floor, he's effective in so many ways.
- Paul George, like a number of players, was caught in foul trouble at stretches in the game, but none of them was taken out of the game like Paul was due to that trouble. The young wingman, coming off an 18 point night, was hampered by foul trouble, didn't offer the Pacers much in the way of scoring, getting 2 points, both from the line. While six players scored in double figures, tonight was a good example of how the wealth of scoring will be spread out across this team.
- The play of Dahntay Jones is becoming increasingly frustrating, because he's playing with the wrong mentality for the unit he's a part of. Jones's assets as an offensive player come from attacking the basket or being the beneficiary of the extra pass, though he forces too much on offense, similar to his play in last year's second unit when they were bereft of any scoring option, relying on Dahntay to have one of those breakout offensive showcases. If Jones can help move the ball better (especially when on the floor with Hill), the second unit can benefit heavily. For the team's fourth scoring option in the second unit, he's playing far too much like the main option.
- Speaking of black holes, Tyler Hansbrough had himself a "how'd he get a double double?" double double. 4-14 shooting gave him 11 points and 12 rebounds, and has still yet to notch up an assist on the year. It's hard to tell whether Hansbrough's play is beneficiary or hindering, but it's sure a sum of how the Pacers have accumulated their 3-0 record to this point; ugly and downright nonsensical, though in the end, all it adds up to is a win.