The Indiana Pacers came out of the All-Star break with fresh legs and active bodies which showed up at both ends of the floor as the Pacers hung on for a solid 100-91 win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.
Back in November the Pacers held Houston to 90 points which was the last time the Pacers held a team to fewer points. That was 40 games ago, so the Pacers deserve some credit for impacting the game at the defensive end. They held the Sixers to 38% shooting on the night and did a great job forcing Philly into jumpers early in the game. The Sixers don't feast from the perimeter (2-15 from 3-land on the night) so keeping them from attacking the bucket pays big dividends.
The Pacers were real solid through three quarters but gave up 28 fourth quarter points to make the game a little too interesting. The Sixers went with a small, athletic lineup which has caused the Pacers problems in earlier games, and suddenly the feet weren't moving and the Sixers were getting to the rim or at least the line. Late in the game, the Sixers went back outside which finally ended the threat.
On offense, the Pacers relied on a full team effort with six guys scoring in double figures, while they took turns shouldering the load for various runs throughout the game. Early in the game, Roy Hibbert had it going with the little hook and a couple of nice putbacks. Danny Granger had a few strong runs and finished with 20 points. Troy Murphy and T.J. Ford took turns closing out the game with key buckets. Murph had another extremely efficient offensive night, with 17 points on 7 of 10 shots.
The win keeps the Pacers playoff hopes alive as they head to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats tomorrow night. Charlotte was hit with a tough overtime loss at Orlando tonight. But tonight's games show how tough it will be for the Pacers to make up ground. While the Pacers won, the teams ahead of them had mixed results. Charlotte and New Jersey lost, but the Bucks and Knicks had big wins so at the end of the day, the Pacers didn't make up any ground, they just kept pace.
Here are a few more thoughts:
- Roy Hibbert had a great night, scoring 14 points and grabbing 5 rebounds in just under 20 minutes. Why didn't he play more? He was certainly causing the Sixers problems and he only had three fouls.
- Roy's absence in the fourth quarter raises a negative thought from this otherwise positive game. Philly went small in the fourth and Jim O'Brien felt compelled to match them and played the final 6:46 with Murph at center. Sure enough the double-digit lead evaporated and the Pacers had to hang on for dear life before putting it away late. The Philly small lineup is more athletic than the Pacers small lineup and as they have in earlier matchups, the Sixers exposed the Pacers inability keep Philly out of the lane. Why try to match them? Why not try a mismatch and insert Roy? He showed he could score from the post, which might make Philly have to adjust instead. Also, having Roy clogging the middle could've slowed down the Sixers effort to attack the lane. Worst case, he fouls out. I just like the idea of dictating the matchup or mismatch in this case.
- Danny Granger had a solid 20 point, 10 rebound night coming off his All-Star appearance. It was a frustrating night, though as he didn't shoot it real well and didn't get many whistles, especially late in the fourth quarter. Late in the third quarter, Danny's frustration boiled over after Andre Miller through a stout forearm into Danny as he was on the run with the ball. Danny took exception and was quickly in Miller's face, drawing a technical. I love the fight we've seen from Danny this year, not backing down to anyone along the way. He's going to have to cool it with the physical stuff after the whistle, though. No since taking the law into your own hands. Let the offending party know how you feel and take it out on them within the rules of the game. If I'm Charlotte, I have someone prodding Danny tomorrow, knowing he'll likely snap and could possibly get tossed. Until he shows he can handle the cheap shots, they'll keep coming his way.
- Mike Dunleavy and Jeff Foster were unable to go tonight which was quite disappointing. Considering the day-to-day hell Dun went through early in the season, there's no way to know when he'll be ready to go again. Both aren't expected to play against Charlotte.