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The Pacers squeaked out a win against the Chicago Bulls, last night, as they try to remain atop the Central Division.
While the media might not say so, and though this game ended up being a lot closer than some Pacers fans may have liked, there was a lot of good to take from this game. Quite a bit, actually.
This man was an absolute godsend last night. With 10 rebounds, he was playing better than he ever has. He, for the most part, shut down Joakim Noah. So much, in fact, that Thibs had Noah sitting on the bench for nine minutes in the fourth quarter. In 35 minutes, Hibbert made his presence known on offense. He shot 50% from the floor to go along with a 4-6 night from the charity stripe. I really wish there was a way to effectively document defensive dominance. One day....one day soon.
If David West could consistently play at the level he did last night, he would be in the MVP conversation. I don't care how ridiculous that sounds, because it's 100% true. In 36 minutes last night, West went for 31-7-2, shot a perfect 9-9 from the free throw line and even had the guts to take a 3-pointer (no, he didn't make it)! This is another guy who has been defensively dominant for the Pacers, as well. West has games like that every once in a while. If he could string a few together against some tougher opponents, that would be something else.
Hill, quietly, had the most efficient night for the Pacers. Shooting a perfect 6-6 from the floor and 3-3 from deep, the Pacers were 13 points better with Hill on the floor. Take away those three turnovers and that 6-10 shooting night from the charity stripe, and Hill had a perfect game. It's worth noting: Hill held Nate Robinson to 2-6 shooting for just six points. I'm really beginning to see the Pacers play consistently good on offense while continuing to remain dominant on defense. Doing something of that nature is a lot harder than you may think.
Everyone make sure to congratulate Coach Vogel on his 100th win of his career. Since becoming the Pacers' coach in 2011, Vogel has led this team to a 100-64 record and two playoff berths. Not to mention, the Pacers are currently in prime position to win their first Central Division Title in almost a decade. Coach has provided Indy with a young fire that they'd been missing since Reggie left, and you can just tell he loves what he's doing and where he's doing it. The Pacers are back in NBA prominence, and there isn't anyone better to be leading them than Coach Vogel. Congrats on your 100th win, Coach.
This was something you had to watch the game to see. The box score shows tell us that the Pacers held Chicago to 8-19 shooting from deep. However, that's incredibly misleading. Marco Belinelli shot 4-5 from deep to go along with Jimmy Butler, who shot 3-5 from deep. The worst part? The majority of those threes came when the Pacers were up by one, two or three. They were daggers that kept the Bulls in the game in the 4th quarter. Not to mention, they were not a result of good passing by Chicago, but rather lazy defense by Indy.
Now, let me cover my tail here before you get mad. Being another facet of the game you had to be watching to notice, I didn't think the media would stop talking about how great Joakim Noah was. I can understand some of the praise, seeing as he's having a breakout season. However, when Noah is on the bench and the Pacers are winning by a good amount, I don't think that's the time to be talking extensively about him. This was more of an annoyance than anything, and Pacers fans have become accustomed to the national media shying away from talking about their team, but I felt it was something to touch on.
Let me start off with a positive on this front. The Pacers won the game. There were some questions regarding whether or not the Pacers could win a game with Paul George struggling. They did. It's even more comforting that the win came against a more than capable team in the Bulls. In 45 minutes, George shot 4-14 for 10 points to go along with 10 rebounds and six assists. The big surprise? He didn't get to the charity stripe once. That's incredibly disappointing for someone who's been gaining prominence when it comes to driving to the hoop and drawing contact. Again, the Pacers won the game, which is a positive, but you'd like these struggles to cease ASAP.
I'll cut Granger some slack. He's still battling his knee injury, and his trying his best to adapt to a new role coming off of the bench. However, he scored zero points in the first half before being taken out of the game due to his knee being sore. That's a definite lowlight. Coming off the bench, a healthy Danny Granger could supply this Pacers team with that second unit spark they've been missing. The Pacers have what they need to put opponents on their heals, however, they're missing that last nudge that puts the opponents on their butts. A healthy Danny Granger could do just that.
The Pacers have a couple of days to rest before they take on the Boston Celtics at home, Wednesday night.