The Pacers certainly let one slip away against Houston last night, but against another shorthanded opponent, the blue and gold was bound and determined to not let another win get away. The Cavaliers were without Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao, creating an all too familiar scenario against a team looking to prove themselves without two of their best players, but also, for the seventh straight time this year, playing a team coming off of a loss. In fact, Indiana has yet to play a team that’s come off a win.
But instead of letting another opponent off the hook, Indiana went into Cleveland and put the second half clamps down on the Cavaliers, led by a quality defensive effort and a once familiar Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy combo. Granger stormed out of the gates and helped set the tone for Indiana, scoring 12 first quarter points, including a stretch of ten in a row, which helped push the Pacers an early first quarter lead. After a timely Byron Scott timeout, the Cavaliers fought back and would close the first out on a 17-7 run.
The Cavs maintained a slim six-point lead early the second, before five Granger points cut it to one. A Roy Hibbert jump put the Pacers up. Indiana worked to build a nice edge heading into the half, but Cleveland would score on their final five possessions, of the half, sending the game into the half tied up. Granger led the way for Indiana with 22 first half points, and would put the Pacers up to start the third, as part of a 9-2 start to the third, helped by Hibbert and Dunleavy.
Both teams worked on their defensive chops in most of the third quarter, each side successfully working to get stops only to have their offensive possessions fall astray. The Pacers would go over three and a half minutes without scoring a single point, but were helped out tremendously by the defensive side of the ball, as the Cavaliers were only able to drop in three points of their own in that span. The Pacers pushed the lead to eight after a thundering Brandon Rush slam that was cut to five by Daniel Gibson to end the third quarter.
Cleveland held close early in the third quarter, before back-to-back three pointers from Granger and Dunleavy made it a nine-point lead. It wouldn’t get much closer than that, since Indiana responded to every push the Cavs would make. Indiana finished the night 10-25 from the three point arc, a huge edge against Cleveland’s 2-15.
Indiana played well tonight on both sides of the ball. After giving up 30 points to Cleveland in the first quarter, they would go on to allow just 31 second half points. The weak side defense, a big talking issue in the first half was in place in the second half. The defense was much better tonight than it was against the Rockets, but the Cavs certainly did their fair share of bailing Indiana out. Regardless, after a 50% first quarter, Cleveland spent the rest of the game struggling from the field, shooting only 27.8% in the second half.
One of the biggest concerns I had for the Cavaliers heading into the season was in their lack of a go-to scorer. I wasn’t sure they’d be able to find a guy who’d be there at the end or at points in the game when the team absolutely needed a basket. Sure enough, the Cavs were unable to capitalize on the Pacers third quarter drought, and couldn’t find consistent scoring in the fourth. Some of that can be attributed to Mo Williams’s absence, but he’s not a prototypical go-to scorer himself. In tonight’s game, Indiana’s go-to scorer came through, Cleveland couldn’t find one.
After the jump, some ups and some bad news about Tyler Hansbrough:
- Tyler Hansbrough left the game in the second quarter that was diagnosed as a sprained ankle. He wouldn’t return tonight, and we’ll wait to hear more about the severity of the sprain, but given how the extended floor action of Solomon Jones went tonight, we should hope it’s not too bad. For now, we hope for his speedy recovery.
- Could Mike Dunleavy be "back?" By "back," we’re of course referring to #17’s career year in 2007-08, when he averaged 19.1 PPG as a perfect wing compliment to Danny Granger’s first full season as the team’s starter. In the past three games, Dunleavy has averaged 22.0 PPG on 58% shooting. Obviously, the shooting numbers will come down, but if the scoring can remain consistent, that gives the Pacers yet another offensive weapon to help hopefully glaze over not only his defensive skills, but the team’s for nights they slip defensively.
- Josh McRoberts had a rough game. He wasn’t able to get anything going offensively or catch any breaks, but he continued to hustle. He’s having a rough stretch, but it’s important he continue to work through it. Of course, because of that, it needs to be mentioned that Solo continues to show his lackluster play as well. He wasn’t able to score on any of his field goal attempts, and only managed to pull down two rebounds in action tonight (bringing his season total to six). Given the doubt of Hansbrough and Jeff Foster, the thin Pacers front court is looking even thinner.
- Roy Hibbert had himself another double double, ending with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Hibbert continued to show his strengths and weaknesses, with tremendous post moves followed by holding too long. Roy is certainly on the right track, but we’re all anxious to see him work quicker to the basket, though his effort on the offensive glass was more than appreciated.
- T.J. Ford has been somewhat overlooked this season, but tonight he put forth yet another quality effort. Ford’s statistical contributions were quiet, but he was very smart in his ball movement and play on the defensive end. His decision making with the ball has his assist numbers up almost two per 36 minutes. He’s not looking for a shot if it’s not there, and he’s not reckless with ball. That’s all you can ask of a PG in this system.
The Pacers get to enjoy the win for a couple of days before coming home for a three game home stand that starts with the Atlanta Hawks, who have hit a bit of a rough spot after a 6-0 start. The Pacers will certainly be tested by the high flying Hawks, so here’s to carrying over the good and expediting the negatives as the team continues to improve.