It was another resilient effort from the Indiana Pacers bench, as Leandro Barbosa made his Indiana debut, though even as impressive as he was, he shared the bill in a big way with George Hill and Tyler Hansbrough. But if that's what the Pacers can expect; the three players who should assume the roles as the best bench players to play like the best and not have to rely on 20-point nights from Lou Amundson to push the bench over the top, Indiana could find themselves in a very positive position.
The Indiana Pacers starters fought tooth and nail with the Clippers early in the first quarter, trying to keep pace with a scorching offense from Los Angeles, one that was hitting shot after shot. Indiana did well to avoid gut checks from the Clippers early by fighting inside, getting all of their points in the paint or at the free throw line, while really struggling to find any stops. Tyler Hansbrough came in halfway through the quarter and began to light it up, going 5-5 from the field for 11 points to get Indiana to a 31 point deadlock after one.
In the second quarter, the Pacers defense was more active, but they simply had more firepower than the LA bench, as George Hill made his best case for overtaking Darren Collison in the starting lineup by making great passes, most of which went to Leandro Barbosa, who exploded for 9 points in the opening 3 and a half minutes as part of an 11-0 Pacers run to put Indiana up. The Clippers starters helped slice the lead, responded by Hansbrough and Danny Granger, closing the half on an 8-2 run to put Indiana up at 8.
Once again, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Nick Young did their best to get the Clippers back in the game, but Indiana did a great job responding to runs. Roy Hibbert showed up early in the third to a tentative, foul hampered DeAndre Jordan to keep the Pacers in the lead when Granger stepped up with a pair of huge threes, Collison capping another 11-0 run to get Indiana a double digit lead for the first time that night.
From there, George Hill began to stick shot after shot as the Pacers pushed the game to 19 halfway through the quarter, helping to close out the game as a relatively quiet Paul George made a defensive stop and sunk in the final dagger on the offensive end to cap a really nice win over a quality opponent at home.
Indiana was really able to control the game tonight once they got into the lead in the second quarter thanks to the big bench play led by Hansbrough, Hill, and Barbosa, but they also shot extremely well from three point range and from the line while the Clippers struggled big time from those areas. Indiana finished up 8-14 from range and 24-26 from the line, a notable free throw night given the team's recent struggles from the line.
On the opposite side, LA was just 6-22 from three point range, but worse yet, only 9-20 from the line. While they've got some poor free throw shooters, it was Chris Paul and Blake Griffin who accounted for 8 of team's misses, as the two went just 5-13 for the night, Paul missing three on his own.
After the jump, more on Barbosa's high definition debut:
- Leandro Barbosa's 17 minutes were very well played. Barbosa exploded for his 9 points, hopefully a good sign that he can score in bunches in short stretches, but it was George Hill who helped set him up in a really good way, including a last second pass and layup from Hill to Barbosa. Indiana's first #28 finished the night wtih 12 points on 5-10 shooting. It seemed he played pretty well, but still reached his average for the season at 12 points, so that could be a very positive sign for the Indiana bench.
- George Hill just plain stuck it to the Clippers late in the second half tonight, but he ran the offense well in the second quarter to help put the Pacers ahead for good. Hill finished with 15 points on 6-7 shooting, but tacked on 6 assists and zero turnovers for good measure. The talk coming out of this one regarding Hill will of course be about him usurping Darren Collison for the starting position, but it remains a very tricky proposition because Hill can run the offense, but it still feels a little unnatural. However, it doesn't help Collison's matters much that he doesn't look much more natural at the job himself.
- Danny Granger had a quiet 25 points, quiet lethal shooting night, a quiet 8 boards and 8 free throws. Quiet of course being relative that the leader playing like a leader seemed humdrum compared to all of the exciting things happening off of the bench. That must be a good sign to what Indiana can be if 25 points just seems a bit pedestrian.
- Tyler Hansbrough had 17 points himself, really being the pesky do everything big man the Pacers have grown to love over the past couple of seasons, with none of the bad things that have popped up more often than not. But credit to Roy Hibbert for his timely third quarter play and Lou Amundson for being okay when he wasn't shooting the ball.
All in all, it was a positive effort from the blue and gold to respond to a pair of frustrating losses and close out their rough stretch at 3-6. While it's not a great record, at least they were able to go 3-2 following their four game losing streak. Indiana will have one day to rest up for their second back-to-back-to-back which begins on Thursday against the comically dysfunctional (at least before the trade deadline) Washington Wizards.