March 3, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) drives past New Orleans Hornets center Gustavo Ayon (15) during the first half of a game at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tyler Kaufman-US PRESSWIRE
In a season defined by back-to-back-to-backs and four games in five nights, the Indiana Pacers were awarded the luxury of three days off, giving Indiana plenty of time to prepare to grab their sixth win in a row against the New Orleans Hornets, a win that was every bit as refreshing and rewarding as the previous five. David West got the Pacers started in his first game back in New Orleans, hitting six of the first eight Pacers points while Jarrett Jack pushed the tempo for the Hornets.
The back and forth early showed the resiliency of the Hornets, but whether fatigue caught up to them due to them only being able to go 9-deep on their fourth night in five games, a pair of layups from Dahntay Jones and Darren Collison halfway through the second quarter helped spark a 21-4 run the Pacers would use to close out the half. Paul George and Danny Granger three pointers put the game at double figures, and Collison dropped a couple of big buckets in the final minute to blow the game wide open, including a soft hook off of a Granger free throw miss.
Indiana had a slow start in the second half, getting just one FG but were able to build on their lead thanks to their play defensively while getting points at the free throw line. Indiana would eventually push the game to 30 points in the fourth quarter, making it another big test of garbage time for the Indiana Pacers, who extended their winning streak to six. On top of an Oklahoma City loss, the Pacers have claim to the longest active winning streak in the NBA for the second time this season.
Indiana's 18-point win was their fourth double figure win in their last five, and their fifth straight game over 100 points, a promising sign that Indiana's middling offense is gaining some traction when they had just six games over 100 in their first 30. With allowing just one opponent in that stretch to reach 90, the Pacers have outscored their opponents by 18 points in their last five.
While the case can be made regarding opponent records, the Hornets have been playing much improved ball, including a close call in Chicago and defeating Dallas while Indiana held one of the league's better offensive teams in Golden State to just 78 points. What that means is that pending tomorrow's outcome in Philadelphia, both Indiana and Chicago could meet Monday in a game of two six game winners.
There's no doubt Monday's game against Chicago is going to be Indiana's biggest game of the season at this point. The game Derrick Rose is living for is nearly here, and Indiana is entertaining the game playing some of their best basketball, making it must see basketball as Indiana hopes to keep a tight grasp on the third seed in the East.
After the jump, a little more on another lopsided victory:
- New Orleans made it an effort to take Roy Hibbert out of the game offensively, who burned them for 30 in the last meeting, and they did just that. Roy had just 4 points, all from the free throw line, but still showed up and made plays, getting 10 boards, 2 blocks, and made a number of assists. In the past, it was easy to tell when Hibbert wasn't engaged because his numbers reflected it, but Roy was still plenty visible, but as soon as he touched the ball, New Orleans did everything to get it out of his hands, which he was able to do, finding his teammates for scores.
- David West was a big part of the game plan early, making up offensively for what Hibbert wasn't given, getting 14 points and 13 rebounds. Danny Granger led all scorers with 20 points, hitting four three pointers. Paul George couldn't find his shot, but still showed up on the defensive end, racking up five steals on the night. Darren Collison rounded out solid starter play putting himself in good positions to make plays. It was hard to tell if he was on his game early, but a pair of huge baskets at the end of the first half really helped to clock the Hornets out of the game.
- Another game with ample garbage game is giving plenty of burn to guys like Jeff Pendergraph, who still doesn't seem to offer a lot more than what Solomon Jones offered the past two years, minus the fact Solo has had a couple of really nice games for New Orleans against his former team. Lou Amundson pitched an 11-10 double double, and his late game court length pass to the Indiana bench had Quinn Buckner in stitches, offering a lighthearted capper to the sizable victory.
The five-game losing streak seems like an eternity ago thankfully; the return of George Hill has proven big to the Indiana bench, but so too has the competition Indiana has had to face. Even still, night in and night out in the NBA, even lengthy stretches against weaker teams doesn't automatically link you to victories.
It's a very positive sign that the Pacers can put away teams they're clearly better than, but where they've simply taken care of business the past two weeks, now comes the 9-game stretch that will more or less define the second half of Indiana's season, with nine games against playoff contenders. The first order is Monday night in Chicago for the matchup with the Bulls. With a rested up Jeff Foster, the Pacers should be able to throw the entire roster at the Bulls to hopefully pull out another huge win on the road to win the clinch the season series victory.