One of the biggest focus points for Indiana this season from the coaching staff has been in how they make hustle plays. Jim O’Brien installed a hustle play chart, which gives a positive mark to a player who makes a block or steal, grabs an offensive board, or takes a charge. As the team reaches the quarter point of the season, they’ve gone very far in making that a huge part of their repertoire.
"A competition," Danny Granger would refer to it as. A refreshing sign for a team capable and willing to play such unselfish ball has played a large part in the team’s record through the first 21 games to come out above .500 and work on putting some distance between them and the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Who’s winning the competition? "James Posey is," Granger said. And when you look at his game tonight, it’s not hard to see why. Posey took three big charges that helped rile up the "New" Stephen Jackson, bent on not getting upset about the way calls were going. You could say Posey is being a mentor to the leader, but he’s a guy who knows how to play basketball the "right" way. It’s a team game, after all. No one on the team lays out more than Posey, and a lot of guys are lying themselves out.
The Pacers came into the game looking to get back in the win column, while working on their recent deficiencies in rebounding (offensive generally), free throw differential, and turnovers. The pace of the game was set early that it wasn’t going to be a pretty game to watch. Stephen Jackson came out of the gates blazing, as he hit his first six shots to rack up 12 of the team’s first 15 points. The game came out in the Bobcats favor until the Pacers went on an 11-0 in the quarter’s final four minutes with two big Brandon Rush three pointers to give Indiana the lead into the second quarter.
Despite the quick lead, Indiana was unable to build upon the lead in the second quarter. Much like against Milwaukee, the team failed to fully capitalize on their possessions and allowed the Bobcats to stick around, thanks to work on the offensive glass. Charlotte closed the game within two as the second quarter wound down when Roy Hibbert filled out a three point play and Rush hit two more triples to push the game out to a more comfortable seven points.
By the time the second half started, Jackson had completely cooled off from his 6-6 start, and hit only FG to start the third quarter, which once again pushed Charlotte back into contention. Once again, Charlotte would work their way to within two, but numerous charges pulled by James Posey gave the Pacers enough on the offensive end to make it a ten point game into the final quarter. The team closed out the game in the same fashion in the fourth thanks to 9 fourth quarter points from Danny Granger, as he led the team with 18.
After the jump, more on this one, including a look at how the team handled their problems and came away with the win:
- With all the talk about what the Pacers needed to improve on, it was unfortunate they didn’t do a great job in responding to those issues. In most cases, they weren’t even minimized. Charlotte grabbed 16 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s 8. Boris Diaw grabbed five of his own to go with big nights on the glass from Gerald Wallace and Kwame Brown, who helped hold Josh McRoberts to just one board. Indiana gave up six points on seven attempts at the free throw line and committed 15 turnovers. They won the turnover battle, and it helped they were able to hold Charlotte to 8 points on points off turnovers.
- The Pacers managed to get double figure scoring nights from all of their starters as well as 16 from Brandon Rush. Roy Hibbert had 14 rebounds with a side of six (flashy) assists and Darren Collison finished with 7 assists and zero turnovers. Pacers worked well on the defensive end not only drawing fouls, but in improving their league best 42.7% FG defense as the Bobcats ended the night on 41.4% shooting.
- The Pacers shot 13-31 deep tonight. Brandon Rush led the way with 4 first half three pointers. Rush had a big first half with 12 points that helped keep Indiana ahead when the Bobcats would threaten with the lead. It was unfortunate to see Rush taken out of the offense as well as him not forcing himself into the offense often enough. Rush had a good stroke, I wouldn’t mind this team riding his hot hand when he’s got one.
- After the game, Stacy Paetz interviewed a spirited and talkative Rush. With all we’ve seen with Rush the past two seasons with the floating, disinterested play, these kinds of gestures, with talk of him being early to practices and shootarounds, we have to feel a little better about his contributions to the team. It’s impossible to know just how much he’s matured, but he’s well onto the right track with his play and demeanor of late. Now if only we could see about getting him into the starting lineup permanently?
- It’s possible to sum up James Posey’s very good night in one play: As a loose ball bounced towards out of bounds, Posey, who was out of bounds himself, quickly made a hop inbounds to tap the ball and keep it in play. Unfortunately, Posey didn’t land, so he was still considered out of bounds, but those are the kind of head’s up plays teams love to have from their players. It’s no wonder Posey is winning the hustle plays competition.
It has to go without saying the Pacers will need to play better as they have three games coming up against tough competition. It starts tomorrow night in Atlanta; whose athleticism has given Indiana fits for a couple of years running. It was no different in the team’s meeting earlier this year, but hopefully the Pacers can catch the Hawks catching their breath from a tough game in San Antonio tonight as they look to address their deficiencies on the road.