Don’t be fooled by the final score; when looking at the scoreboard at halftime, seeing the Pacers leading 62-37, it was hard to believe Pacers fans were concerned about a letdown. After the huge win in Miami, all eyes were on the second game of the team’s back to back, a home affair against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as if this game would seemingly validate what happened in Miami.
It was all about encores tonight. How does this year’s team handle success of a big win when they have to turn around the next night and take on a sub .500 team at home? Fortunately, the Pacers passed the test with flying colors.
Both teams started ice cold, but Indiana managed to make it to the free throw line early, to help build a quick lead. Even though the Cavs pushed to within five late in the first quarter, the game was truly never in doubt. In the first quarter, the Pacers played sloppy basketball, but slowly began to build their lead, taking a 24-16 lead into the second. The Pacers did not play well offensively in the first quarter, but once again, they found a way.
In the second quarter, Indiana got it going offensively, and used that to slowly build up a 25-point lead at the half, scoring 38 points in the second quarter, all while holding Cleveland to 37 in the entire half. In the third, Indiana continued to up their lead, eventually capping out at 34 points, before Cleveland fought hard to make the score a respectable one, outscoring the Pacers 33-16 in the fourth to show up only 11 down when the buzzer sounded.
Despite the fourth quarter explosion, the Indiana Pacers’ controlled every aspect of this one, limiting turnovers, making shots in the second quarter, and playing tenacious defense. Through the third quarter, Joey Graham was the only Cavalier to even reach double digits, which he didn’t do until 30 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Danny Granger and Darren Collison led the way, in addition to another superb game from Brandon Rush. The Pacers move to 3-0 on the second games of back-to-backs, which could be a great sign as the team moves forward.
After the jump, more positives from the nice follow-up win:
- Danny Granger found his shot tonight, hitting five three pointers on his way to 24 points with five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Danny helped lead the way defensively for Indiana tonight.
- Brandon Rush came off the bench to score 16 points on 7-10 shooting. That’s another night, another great performance from Brandon. We may remain cautious to trust too much into what we’re seeing, but every time Brandon can not only stay active, but do work on some exciting shots and staying active.
- Darren Collison didn’t seem bothered at all by any ankle issues, going for 18 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and best of all, zero turnovers. Supposedly, he’s pushing his teammates to be aware that he’s the starting PG. It’d be good to have a healthy PG battle.
- Roy Hibbert was limited in minutes, but did a good job of staying active despite only taking six field goal attempts. Hibbert finished with just six points, but had 7 rebounds, and made some nice hustle plays. He left the game in the second half with a headache, get better!
- The rest of the Pacers front court played well. Josh McRoberts had 9 points and 7 rebounds, Tyler Hansbrough put in 8 of his own, and Solomon Jones made more plays himself. Front court issues are the furthest thing from our mind when everyone can make a contribution.
Indiana now sits at 7-6 and get to play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are flying high on seven wins in their last eight. The Pacers played the Thunder well last year, including winning in Conseco Fieldhouse last spring. They’ll get to put their newfound defensive mentality against the league’s leading scorer in Kevin Durant and one of the league’s most explosive PGs in Russell Westbrook. It won’t be easy, but Indiana’s in a good position to make a push.