Roy Hibbert summarized the team’s play as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the post game interview as the Pacers shook off a couple of poor losses and turned it into a solid win against the Boston Celtics. Sure, the Celtics came in stumbling…laboring injuries…losing more often than winning, but it doesn’t mean they’re any less capable of completing the season sweep against Indiana. However, the Pacers hammered out a much needed win in front of a Conseco crowd comprised of Celtics fans and moved one step closer to the ultimate goal of a postseason berth; officially improving on last year’s win total tonight.
The game wasn’t exactly a regular affair, however. It was hot, cold, composed, frantic, ludicrous, and all parts sane. It could’ve been best summed up by often neglected English descriptions like "wonky" or "discombobulated." It was certainly a game that warranted a thesaurus, because like words in a thesaurus, you don’t typically see play like this (good and bad) in every day basketball life.
Rajon Rondo was a game time decision, which of course is code for "will score 12 first quarter points and five easy layups." Stephen Jackson would be proud. The Celtics came out of the gate looking to remedy recent offensive struggles and did so in a big manner, shooting upwards of 80% in the first quarter before settling at a slightly less absurd 72.2%. It made Indiana’s 55% shooting look downright pedestrian.
Hibbert led the way for the blue and gold, finally getting the better of an undersized opponent, scoring 13 points over Glen Davis, while putting Nenad Krstic in early foul trouble alongside fell front court starter Kevin Garnett. Garnett, with Rondo’s help, put Indiana down ten early, but the second unit (The Jekylls?) pushed Indiana back into the game, ending on a high note from recent scapegoat A.J. Price. Price, who has struggled tremendously from the floor, went on to lead a fourteen point swing to complete the furious comeback with 9 of his 11 first half points in the second quarter.
Suddenly, the game which was quickly falling by the wayside saw Boston come back to earth, and the Pacers creep slowly back into contention, fueled by strong shooting, but for all the good the guys did, it was another twist that led Boston right back into the lead in the third quarter. Hot shooting and plentiful free throw shooting helped the Celts reclaim the lead as their defense stifled Indiana. To Indiana’s credit, they were winners of 50-50 balls not only in the third, but all night, which helped minimize the damage of the Celtics furious onslaught in the third.
Indiana managed to regain the lead in the fourth quarter, as Boston failed to register a field goal for nearly five minutes in the fourth, and strong play from everyone on the court withstood a Celtics run that put Indiana up 96-94 when Hibbert made the biggest play of the night. Pierce, seemingly wide open for a layup, was stuffed on the glass by Big Roy, who finished with a game high 26 points, and led to him assisting Brandon Rush on the other end.
The other "bench him now" point guard on Indiana’s roster, Darren Collison, then came up with a huge steal on Rondo, leading a powerful (as powerful as he can anyway) dunk that set Indiana’s lead at six. Boston made two more pushes and it was none other than Collison who put the game out of reach and out of sight as Indiana secured the 107-100 victory.
As I mentioned, it was an odd game. The Pacers were horrible defensively most of the night, but it was their defense that made the plays to put the game away. Collison and Price have gotten the short end of the stick for their inconsistent and erratic play of late, but they combined for 32 points, each invaluable to the win. Boston only committed 15 turnovers (their average is 14.5), but most seemed shockingly undisciplined. After getting whacked by Tyler Hansbrough, Garnett tried to intimidate a player who has the nickname "Psycho" with a light bump, which resulted in a key fourth foul for KG. Collison dunked, Price made shots, Hibbert played one of his two best games as a pro, Rondo was tremendous early, and Big Baby dropped a Double Hamilton. Most importantly though…Indiana won.
After the jump, quarter by quarter shooting:
- In addition to the game itself, the shooting numbers were all over the place. Both teams shot above 54%, but both got their in such spectacular fashion it is only fair to recount the quarter-by-quarter shooting, as the rest of Indiana’s season should be on quarter-by-quarter basis.
Boston shot 13-18 in the first quarter, 7-16 the second quarter, 10-14 the third quarter, and 4-14 in the fourth.
Indiana shot 11-20 in the first quarter, 11-17 in the second, 8-22 in the third, and a solid 12-18 to close it out.
The shooting was all over the place all night, and both teams took their lumps, but Indiana got their shots to fall when it mattered most.
- Roy Hibbert not only had one of his finest games as a pro, but he did so in making big shots. Hibbert’s come a long way this season, and in finally getting the better of a smaller defender (aren’t they all kind of smaller?), took a step to hopefully exorcise those demons and become a sharp, confident center. His 26 points were accompanied by an unassuming 4 boards and 2 assists, but take note of his 12-17 shooting. Given his usually shooting nights, this was really something.
- The point guards were leaders! Both get a lot of flak, some deservedly and some not so deservedly, but they came up big tonight. Not only did A.J. Price and Darren Collison combine for 32 of the game’s most important points, but they combined to shoot 14-18 from the field. It’s games like these, with big shots being made, and one turnover between the two, that bear reminder that these guys are second-year players after all, playing the QB position of basketball. One is on his fifth head coach, the other sat half of the year. If you discount them, be sure to give them their dues on nights like these. Price’s free throw struggles carried over unfortunately, as he went just 1-4, and tried to talk himself through a miss before missing another. Hopefully he can get his head on straight.
- Danny Granger shot the ball well, 6-12 and 2-6 deep for 18 points, came up on the defensive end a few times, but his struggles were in turnovers as he was whistled for three traveling violations en route to four turnovers. Paul George didn’t have a very good game, picking up fouls quickly in the second half, and struggling to find any rhythm.
- This has been a real issue with George’s game since he took over the starting job. It feels his game is being capped with the starting lineup being made up of offensive players. While Brandon Rush has proved to be an inadequate fit for the starting lineup (his 8 points on two automatic three pointers and 4 boards were a nice addition), the return of Mike Dunleavy (who was cleared to play and dressed for tonight’s game) could open up the possibility of moving George back to the second unit where he can provide more of a punch to a unit prone to droughts and poor stretches of play
- Milwaukee and Charlotte squared off tonight and Charlotte prevailed. With the win, this puts Charlotte a game back (2 with the tiebreaker) as Milwaukee drops three back. Elsewhere, New York won in overtime, so Indiana didn’t gain any ground, but Chicago’s loss to Philadelphia (in addition to Boston’s loss) draws Miami to within two games of the top seed. Could a Heat/Pacers series be a possibility yet?
As nice as this win was for Indiana, this was merely a make-up for some of their uglier losses recently. Indiana will stay at home for the final matchup of the season with the Detroit Pistons, who have caused Indiana far too much trouble this season. If this were college basketball, it’d be Judgment Week. Are the Pacers fit for the tourney?