Feb. 28, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) shoots the ball against Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins (15) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE
It was a fast start, a 10-0 start, that set the tone for the Indiana Pacers cruising to victory against the Golden State Warriors, but curiously enough, it wasn't the start that gave Indiana the 30-point lead they held throughout much of the second half. Not when the Warriors fought in the first quarter to negate the Pacers start as Brandon Rush and Monta Ellis led a 13-0 Warriors run to put them in the lead early in the second quarter.
As it seemed Golden State was finding their footing to settle into another close game against the Pacers, Tyler Hansbrough would score the next four to get Indiana back in the lead, tacking on a couple of timely three pointers from A.J. Price and Dahntay Jones to break the Warriors zone. Golden State hung within two possessions before an 8-0 run, helped by the Pacers forcing turnover after turnover on the Warriors put them up 14 heading into the break.
The Pacers continued to force turnovers into the third quarter as Paul George came up big on both sides to put the blue and gold up by 20. In a different approach than has been the case most of the season, Frank Vogel opted to keep the starters in the the entire third quarter, and they came up with big stops and key buckets to stomp on the throat of the Warriors. The third quarter has been the Pacers' biggest strength this season, and they showed why tonight, outscoring Golden State 33-16 in the period.
The bench got all of the reps in the fourth quarter, maintaining much of Indiana's lead, getting some fine garbage time minutes. Indiana looked like the team fresh out of the All-Star break; they went out and took care of business early, allowing the starters to rest up further for three day layoff between tomorrow and Saturday night's game against a Hornets team that gave the Bulls all they could handle in Chicago.
One of the key struggles for the Pacers has been how they've been unable to break the zone when opponents shifted into it, but it's a whole lot easy when you're able to hit shots the way Indiana was tonight. They went 5-11 from three point range, certainly helped by the Warriors' cold shooting from the same distance. Indiana not only forced Golden State into turnovers, but capitalized on every opportunity, dominating the Warriors tonight in fast break points, winning that battle 26-9.
After the jump, more on all 13 players getting game time:
- Danny Granger just has Golden State's number it seems. There's not a lot of other ways to spin it. It doesn't seem to matter how poorly Granger is playing, or what kind of funk he's in, he seems to get up and break out against the Warriors. His 25 was his tenth straight 20-point game against Golden State, and his 6-6 night from the line pushed his career FT% to 96% against them. It'd certainly be nice to see him use a Warriors game to get him into a groove in the second half of the year offensively.
- Paul George had the sexy stat line of the night with a cool 11 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals in 26 short minutes, being one of four Pacers to have double double bids cut short due to the limited minutes. George was absolutely every when it came to frustrating the Warriors, ballhawking like it was the Rising Stars Challenge, turning turnovers into fast break points. If you were hoping George was going to wear his Dunk Contest loss as a chip, he certainly showed a lot of good play to suggest that may be the case. An angry Paul George? Maybe it's what the team needs.
- The team's other All-Star contributor Roy Hibbert had another All-Star level performance with 12 and 9 with three blocks. There were stretches where he was unstoppable against the smaller Warriors defenders, hitting turnarounds with a left hook, following misses with huge dunks, being an absolute presence on both sides of the ball. The relative lack of size had to play a part, but that's exactly what Roy needs to do against smaller defenders with the title of All-Star.
- Tyler Hansbrough had another solid night to hopefully suggest he's on his way out of his lengthy struggles, hitting some crazy shots and really forcing the referees to call the whistle when he got into the paint with the ball as he racked up 15 points and 9 rebounds in just 14 minutes of action. Indiana will need Tyler in the second half of the year if they hope to grab the third spot in the East (as they aim for higher), and the past couple of games are good starts towards that.
Indiana pushed their win streak to a season long five games, a great response to their five game losing streak. The Pacers are 22-12, back to ten games above .500, and keeping the heat on the teams following Indiana in the standings. The long layoff should be a great chance for Indiana to save up more energy as they head back on the road for 4 in their next 5. Saturday's game against a much improved New Orleans team starts a pivotal ten game stretch including games against teams some pundits believe are championship level contenders, including Chicago, Miami, the Clippers, and a pair against New York.