The Indiana Pacers not only had to fight against a hungrier Detroit Pistons team coming off a 32-point shellacking, but also their own mistakes early to pull out a win they needed in order to avoid wasting the great effort they had last night. Indiana began the game up 10-0, but turnovers and ice cold shooting by the Pacers allowed Detroit to claw back into it, eventually taking the lead in the second quarter 21-20. Despite the offense falling back after the start, the defense remained the focal point. Indiana held Detroit to just nine first quarter points, and held them to 34% shooting for the game, under 30% for the first half.
Danny Granger returned to action tonight, showcasing some positives and some things that will hopefully one day become positives with how the team played with him on the floor. It doesn't seem quite so coincidental that the Pacers struggled offensively with Granger on the floor, trying to figure out how to work him into the game. Of course, Indiana at this point seemed really unfocused period, compounding a lot of situations with around half of their 20 turnovers.
Granger went just 1-10 from the floor for two points, but his looks were looks he's hit throughout his career. The rust on his shot was evident, but despite some hesitation on his knee, he still looked involved in the game, especially defensively. Granger had a block and two rebounds to add to his effort. The whole team exploded with congratulations when he hit his first shot on his ninth attempt. Granger's integration will be paramount moving forward with the competition improving, but for now, it was simply great to see him on the floor.
Orlando Johnson remained a part of the Indiana rotation, as most of the minutes seem to come away from Lance Stephenson, who despite just five points, did grab five rebounds and two steals. George Hill was the team's foundation to success tonight. He seemed like the only guy all night who you could count on to get a bucket when the team needed one. He finished 7-10 from the floor for a game high 17, including a trio of three pointers.
Of course, when you mention consistency in getting timely buckets, David West is always a big part in that, especially in the third quarter tonight when Detroit had their best chance to push the game into single digits. West had 12 of his 16 in the third, pushing a 10-point lead to 12 at two separate parts of the quarter, even assisting on a pair of third quarter three pointers.
Paul George had another poor shooting night of just 5-14, but despite that and five more turnovers, he did total 12 boards and eight assists to go with his 12 points and three steals for an all around solid game, assuming he can eventually clean up those turnovers. The big man position was a struggle tonight due to foul trouble, a recent trend that hopefully as well gets cleaned up.
Hibbert fouled out for the second time in three games, and has averaged 4.7 fouls per game in the team's last six games. This would be a bigger issue if Ian Mahinmi, who had 7 & 10, weren't having similar problems, as he had five fouls himself tonight. Indiana held Detroit to 24 points in the paint, but if fouls continue to escalate, it could create a lot of issues for Indiana's stout interior D.
D.J. Augustin had a somewhat D.J. Augustin showing with a nice 10 points, but one of the single reasons Detroit was able to climb back into the game in the first half when Will Bynum got the better of Augustin time and time again. Bynum would end up leading the Pistons with 15 before being ejected early in the fourth punching Tyler Hansbrough in the gut, an act that seemed to crop up at a random point.
The beauty of the Indiana Pacers this season definitely comes in their ability to win ugly, and their ability to stay focused and keyed in defensively despite having absolutely no focus offensively early in this one helped make the win that much easier later on when Detroit had their chances to make it a single digit game. Indiana managed to shoot 45% for the game and once again assisted on well over half of their field goals, but the team's 20 turnovers really stung, especially early.
They were able to take care of business to finish off the Pistons and sweep them in the regular season to get their fourth straight win, setting them up for a tough next five games. They'll finish up their home heavy February in these next five games starting with a rematch against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Warriors have slumped a bit as of late, but Indiana will no doubt remember their lost in Oakland, headlined by Paul George's zero point effort that seemed to be the turning point in George's season.