Any concerns about Danny Granger returning to muck up the Pacers playing rotations or chemistry were quickly alleviated after the team rose up to put together their most complete performance of the year in drubbing the Rockets by 33 points.
A 33-point win is certainly a fitting way to celebrate 33's return.
It seemed like all of Granger's teammates were dialed in to make 'The Grange's' (as Paul George called him) return as smooth as possible, while snapping a two-game losing streak. Paul George led the way with 24 points with Lance Stephenson and George Hill asserting their will on the game at various points.
The reserve unit left things better than they found when Granger was on the floor both in the first half and second half run. Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Ian Mahinmi combined for 31 points making for a nice-looking second unit with Granger and Stephenson.
The best part was that Granger was far from perfect, making just a corner three-pointer with six misses. But his defense was solid and he was a willing passer in the half-court offense. The signature play came when he drove the lane, drew a couple of defenders and then found Scola on the baseline for one of his signature 15-foot shots. Splash.
Granger's legs and bounce still have a ways to go, although they are probably closer to his new reality which will change the type of plays Granger can expect to make on the court. That was painfully obvious when Lance Stephenson tried to leave a lob around the rim which Granger had a tough time just corralling, let alone finishing.
That play led to some great, light-hearted comments after the game which expose how enmeshed Granger is in the chemistry of this team.
"He threw a bad lob," Granger said with faux outrage about the pass from Lance.
"Even Paul said, I don't think I could've caught that lob. He threw a bad lob, if he would've thrown it right I would've torn the rim down. If he would've thrown the lob better, I would've put it down. I know, because when Paul says, I don't know if I could've caught that one, that says something because Paul catches everything."
Apparently PG was being kind to his friend on the bench, because after the game George changed his assessment of the play with some more good-natured banter.
"I would've went and got that," PG said of the errant lob to Granger as a smile took over his next comment.
"The Grange has never been good with those plays."
While PG was laughing after revealing the nickname for 33, I had to assume there will be plenty of chatter and laughter about that play when the team takes a look at the clip together.
Of course, that's when this team is always at its best, playing together.
Welcome back, Danny. Here's a look at the first impact Granger had on the game less than a minute after checking in...on the DEFENSIVE end, no less.
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