There are three ways to look at Indiana's win against the Mavericks tonight. The first would be to look at the game itself. The scorching hot Pacers started 8-8 from the field, weathered a lot of Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter to see their lead fizzle away as they went into the half down one. As has been the case almost the entire season, however, the Pacers stormed out in the second half. They continued to be strong in the third quarter and stepped up big on the defensive end. Even though the Pacers gave up 53 points to Dallas in the first half, they were able to recover, only allowing 34 in the second half.
Yeah, the first way to look at the game is to take it for what it is; a really impressive win against the defending NBA Champions in their arena. It was Indiana's first victory in Dallas since 2004. It was their fourth straight victory, the first four game winning streak since this time last year, when the Pacers were finding themselves with fresh life under the guidance of Frank Vogel. It was Indiana's 16th victory of the season in 22 tries. Their road record is 10-5. And yes, they've only played seven home games.
The second way to look at this game is to look almost exclusively at the play (and possible arrival) of Paul George. For a guy that was drafted on his potential, it's a little hard to hold back the excitement when that potential yields a career night of 30 points on 7 three pointers while he also grabbed 9 boards, dished 5 dimes, and collected 5 steals (not to mention a demoralizing from behind block on Jason Terry that led to a pivotal five point swing, which of course resulted in a George three pointer). It was Paul's greatest game as a Pacer, but it's hard to imagine it being his greatest game for long.
But the third way to look at this win is awfully sentimental, almost sappy. It's far less to do with beating the Dallas Mavericks. It's to do with the accomplishments of a team that has reignited a sense of hope in a franchise that has spent the better part of the last decade recovering from its blackest eye. It's getting those ten road wins which include long losing streaks being broken in what seems like every arena they visited.
Tonight's win seemed far less about the win itself, but more about the accumulation of everything that's happened through the first third of this season. Even if this team comes back to earth, it's been a productive season that shows this team is not only young with room for improvement, but they are going to be a good team when they get it all together. This season wasn't supposed to be Indiana's, but the Pacers sure seem interested in staking their claim as a legitimate team in a shaky Eastern Conference, heck, a shaky league as a whole.
After the jump, more look at the win itself:
- Paul George had a real breakout game. Not only are his stats impressive, but his work where it won't show up in the box score was just as impressive. Defensively, George had a tremendous second half, keeping Jason Terry in check, making sure he wouldn't heat up and lead the Mavericks to a comeback. The Mavs were able to cut it to five early in the fourth, but it was George's block on Terry and his follow up three pointer that really capped the game. But as nice as George's play was, Vince Carter really made things difficult for him in the first half. George's philosophy seemed to be if you can't stop them, score on them, as every basket Carter was able to go in late in the second quarter, George responded with a three pointer; three to be exact, back-to-back-to-back.
- David West was a huge key for this team, especially right out of the gate. West finished the night with a season high 20 points forcing himself inside and also getting wide open mid range shots, killing the Mavericks defense almost the entire game. In fact, it's almost no coincidence that when West sat late in the first quarter, the Pacers allowed Dallas back in the game. But the bench as a whole simply did nothing, having a combined 10 points on 4-14 shooting.
- Danny Granger wasn't able to get the calls he was looking for when attacking the basket, but even though his shooting numbers don't support a claim he played well, he really did have a fine game, ending up with 16 points. The key is that all 16 seemed to come at critical stretches of the game, but having three triples certainly helps that. Roy Hibbert struggled shooting and really couldn't get anything going offensively, so it was a big deal the Pacers were able to perform well on the offensive end, but also that Hibbert didn't get lost in the game as he grabbed 14 rebounds and put forth some nice plays on the defensive end.
Indiana's win in Dallas not only puts them at 16-6 on the year, but also at 7-4 against winning teams. The relevance? Well, the next six games for Indiana are all games against teams that currently have a winning record. The Pacers schedule certainly doesn't ease up even though more home games will start popping up; it just means they have to focus on being a strong team at home. It starts immediately as the Orlando Magic, currently laying over in Cincinnati due to the Super Bowl, will travel (and then travel some more) to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The season series between the two sits at 1-1 with both teams pulling out lopsided victories on the other's home floor. The Pacers have to hope the trend doesn't continue as they look for their fifth straight victory.