Feb. 21, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) dunks the ball against the New Orleans Hornets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE
Certain things happen when you allow your opponent to shoot 70% in the first half, but are still able to force 11 first half turnovers, all while missing 9 free throws in the game: You have to grind one out in an overtime you should be thankful you're getting, because one (more) bounce in the New Orleans Hornets favor and the Indiana Pacers travel to Charlotte shaking their heads, having taken on another frustrating loss.
About the Hornets, who shot 70% in the first half, they did so jumping off to a blazing start, hitting their first six shots en route to a 9-point lead they maintained through the first and pushed to double digits in the second. It was all the Pacers could do to hold on for New Orleans to eventually come back down and quit putting on the offensive onslaught like the other local professional sports team. Unfortunately, while the Hornets were hitting shots, they were doing so at the expense of some porous and slow reacting Pacers defenders.
It was all Frank Vogel could do to get in time outs to get the focus of the team back, but the Hornets were incredibly opportunistic tonight; getting the timely baskets they needed to keep Indiana at arm's length the entire first half including some key play from former Pacers Jarrett Jack and Solomon Jones. On the other side of the ball, the Pacers were able to stay in the game by forcing turnovers, but also getting All-Star play from Roy Hibbert, who had 18 at the half, and former Hornet David West, who pitched in 12 of his own.
The Pacers finally pushed into the lead early in the third quarter, but getting there relieved much concern for the blue and gold, who promptly lost their focus, allowing New Orleans to push back into the lead. The game went back and forth until A.J. Price dropped in six straight points to give Indiana what seemed to be a mounting six-point lead. Unfortunately, the Hornets responded with a 10-0 run of their own heading into the fourth to regain the lead, one that the Hornets were able to hold onto late into the quarter.
The team went away from Hibbert (something that should almost be expected) throughout the second, but the big fella kept pushing and got his opportunities and came up big on both sides of the ball to give Indiana the lead. A lethal David West jumper seemed to all but sink the dagger in on the game, but what became a free throw game left the door open for New Orleans when Darren Collison missed one of his two game icing free throws. That was the only cue Trevor Ariza needed to knot the game up at 100 a piece. When Paul George's game winner bounced off the back iron, the Pacers would have to claw out a W in overtime.
Finally showing some dominating life, the Pacers stormed out in the extra period to scoring 13 points in the first three minutes to put the game at 113-102, a hole the Hornets tried to climb out, but a steal and windmill finish by Slam Dunk competitor Paul George put a solid exclamation on a gutsy win for the blue and gold. The big problems for the Pacers came with free throw shooting, a growing concern, as well as the defensive rotations. Too often, the Hornets had an open man spotting for a three pointer that almost assuredly went in at the worst possible time. While the Pacers improved defensively as the game wore on, they continued to struggle getting the key stop they needed to get back in control of the game.
Add in some always confusing plays on offense, the Hornets had all the chances to win the game, and had they themselves not struggled at the line, they could've walked out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse with another impressive road victory. Fortunately, Indiana was able to move their winning streak to 3 with one more test before All-Star Weekend takes hold.
- Roy Hibbert had 30 points and 13 rebounds to go with three blocks to give him a new career high, one over the 29 he'd scored numerous times before. The big fella was short the face mask and able to celebrate by going 11-17 from the field. While he had some defensive struggles against Chris Kaman, Solomon Jones, and the Hornets front line, he made the plays that needed to be made to help the Pacers win, looking like an All-Star in the process.
- David West was a big catalyst early in the game, scoring the first six Pacers points and simply being the cold blooded veteran he's shown to be this season against his former team. For all the problems the Pacers front court had defensively, the Hornets had no answer for Hibbert and West when the Pacers made an effort to get them the ball.
- Darren Collison had 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, and despite some early defensive troubles (though, who didn't have defensive struggles tonight?), DC put together a quiet, albeit solid game. While the game was ruled by the starters, DC's backup A.J. Price had a really impressive game as well, dropping in 11 big points and, unlike most of his teammates, hit his free throws to keep his season average at 100%.
- Paul George and Danny Granger had some solid defensive stretches, but neither was on pace all game. The interesting thing as this dynamic continues to improve is how the two of them seem to be able to off set the others' struggles. They each had some timely baskets when the team needed them even though neither shot the ball particularly well.
The Pacers have moved their winning steak to three following their five game skid. While the quality of the opposition may not be there, the Pacers are doing what's expected of them: beating the teams they're supposed to beat at home. They've got one more game before the All-Star break tomorrow night in Charlotte to face the Bobcats, coming off of a 35-point loss to the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers can't afford to slip up and let the lifeless Bobcats sneak in a W to a Pacers team looking forward to the weekend.