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In Defense Of Josh McRoberts

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Josh McRoberts played the whole third quarter for the Indiana Pacers last night, but didn't score one of the 54 points the team put on the board. In fact he only took one shot.

You may have heard about that one. It was the only miss of the quarter, an ill-advised 3-ball before the buzzer sounded which broke up a streak of 20 straight shots made by the home team.

McRoberts heard about it, believe me. Because the miss was irrelevant to the game's outcome and simply part of an exciting basketball moment, much of the grief McRoberts has endured has been of the good-natured ribbing variety.

But that third quarter performance drew national attention from every media outlet interested in the NBA. Whatever highlights were shown or story was written, they all ended with the McRoberts miss and a little dig.

What this revealed to me is that a lot of people have some pre-conceived notions of Josh McRoberts' game and haven't seen him play much if at all this year. That's not surprising. The Pacers aren't easy to find unless you really want to watch them play and McRoberts certainly isn't a guy you'd tune in to see like a Danny Granger or Darren Collison.

But still, the tone of some of the stuff I've read simply clowns on McRoberts like he's a journeyman big man or one-dimensional stiff when in reality he's a skilled and athletic, 23-year old forward just seeing the first significant minutes of his career. When the Pacers have played well this season, McRoberts hasn't been THE reason why but he's certainly pitched in to help make things go.

At media day this year, Jim O'Brien said he had three expectations for McRoberts at the start of the season and those were to run the floor, to rebound and to take care of the ball. No mention of scoring or even shooting the ball. McRoberts needs to produce as a low usage player, doing a little dirty work and making hustle plays.

McRoberts has done those three things pretty well in the few games so far and upon further review of last night's third quarter outburst that has drawn him so much attention, he did those things exceptionally well.

After the jump, check out the positive impact McRoberts had at both ends of the floor throughout the third quarter. You may no longer mind that missed three at the end, because he certainly earned a shot, even if it wasn't his best.

  • McRoberts ran the floor, making himself a factor on delayed breaks because a defender had to account for him running all the way to the bucket.
  • McRoberts sets a screen to open Granger up to knock down a 20-footer.
  • Defensive rebound and outlet pass, then at the other end in a half-court set, drove the ball into the lane and dished to Dunleavy for an assist.
  • Next possession, from the high post, McRoberts fed Granger who had Chauncey Billups posted up. Granger went to work for a bucket.
  • On defense, McRoberts challenged a shot by Shelden Williams which he missed. Roy Hibbert then came over and swatted Williams' dunk attempt.
  • Next defensive possession McRoberts cleared the rebound with a solid outlet pass to get the offense going the other way.
  • On that offensive possession, McRoberts handled the ball on the left wing, fed it out to Dunleavy and then set a pick to free Darren Collison in the corner. Dunleavy fed Collison for yet another 3-ball.
  • Collison stole a Billups pass at the other end and pushed the ball up the floor with the Nuggets back on defense. McRoberts ran the left lane hard prepping for a possible alley oop pass which drew two Denver defenders. Danny Granger was left alone behind the running McRoberts and Collison found him for another 3-ball.
  • A couple of possessions later off a side in-bounds play, McRoberts had the ball on the left elbow and threw a nice pass over the top to Danny Granger for an easy bucket at the rim.
  • On the next possession, McRoberts was battling in the low post for position and Collison lost the handle while trying to get a pass into McRoberts. Gary Forbes took the ball on a break the other way. After Collison slowed up his layup attempt, McRoberts was there to swat the shot into the seats after running the length of the floor.
  • On the next offensive possession, McRoberts kept the ball movement going after getting the ball in the post, he made the pass out to T.J. Ford that led to the pass to Mike Dunleavy who was open for three. Denver defenders were forced to run out and foul Dunleavy in the act of shooting.
  • On the next defensive possession, McRoberts snagged another rebound and fueled the transition with the outlet pass to Ford. Then trailing the play, McRoberts took a feed from Ford going straight up the lane. When Al Harrington slid over to help, McRoberts dished to Hansbrough for a dunk, but not before Harrington threw a cross-body block on McRoberts earning a flagrant foul.
  • On the next defensive possession, McRoberts went up in a crowd for a high rebound and was able to tap it down to Hansbrough, giving the Pacers possession once again.
  • Two possessions later, McRoberts worked out of the high post with Dunleavy on the wing and Hansbrough down low. The trio kept the ball moving until, McRoberts screened Dunleavy's man to open him up for a pass from Hansbrough and another 3-ball.
  • A couple of defensive possessions later, McRoberts cleared another rebound and threw a strike with a baseball-throw outlet pass to Mike Dunleavy. This possession led to a corner three from Brandon Rush to complete the 54-point scoring binge for the quarter.

This isn't a catalog of every possession but just the times when McRoberts had a direct impact on the play, whether it be at the offensive or defensive end. To be honest, I wasn't expecting as much of an impact as I saw and the fact that he did this without taking a shot for 11:58 is pretty impressive.