The Indiana Pacers needed a boost off the bench on Wednesday night and rookie Paul George played the lead for the supporting cast with 16 points in 18 valuable minutes as the Pacers were able to fend off a couple of late threats to secure a 102-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Last night in Philly, the bench played about 70 minutes with Brandon Rush and Jeff Foster accounting for 55 of those minutes. Jim O'Brien, desperate to secure a road win in Philly, tightened his rotation to essentially seven players with only four points and 14 minutes coming outside the top seven players.
Mission accomplished in Philly, but how would the legs respond the next night against a depleted but hungry Dallas Mavericks team? When a certain factor can play against the Pacers, in this case tired legs, it seems like opponents always take advantage, leaving the Pacers with a loss.
The way this game started it certainly seemed like we were headed for an ugly night at the Fieldhouse. Midway through the first quarter, the Pacers had all of four points and JOB had already gone to the bench. The Pacers fell behind 13-6, shooting around 30 percent and really struggling to get any good looks against an aggressive Dallas defense.
But things turned around for the Pacers.
By the end of the quarter, JOB had already gone ten deep and a Paul George 3-pointer brought the Pacers within one. The game remained tight until the Pacers nudged ahead in the third quarter. Then early in the fourth, George knocked down two more threes to put the Pacers up 12 before he turned the game over to Danny Granger and Brandon Rush who combined to score 10 points for the Pacers while trading blows with Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion as the Mavs' stars tried to mount a rally.
Rush's final two points of that run were followed up at the other end by a defensive stop and a frustration technical foul by Tyson Chandler. Darren Collison cashed in the tech and the Pacers maintained control of the game until the final buzzer.
More thoughts on the win after the jump.
- As he did in Philly, Jim O'Brien ended up relying on the same seven players to play the bulk of the minutes, just not as many minutes. Granger, Hansbrough, Hibbert, Rush and Collison started with Foster and Dunleavy playing big minutes off the bench. The closing combo of Collison, Granger, Rush, Dunleavy and Foster got it done again.
- The difference though was that Paul George and T.J. Ford combined to play about 21 more minutes tonight and combined to score 20 more points than last night.
- This tightening of the rotation is pretty big news considering the way it impacts the point guard minutes. Last night Collison was huge, playing over 36 minutes. He backed it up tonight with 31 minutes, finishing with 17 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and only 2 turnovers. The numbers weren't as gaudy as last night but the real eye-opener is only 3 turnovers in 67 minutes of play. That'll work!
- Roy Hibbert struggled with his hooks but was more judicious with his shot selection tonight. He did drain a couple of jumpers to finish with 9 points and 7 rebounds on 4 of 8 shooting. But he wasn't able to exploit his matchup advantage so early fouls in both halves limited his minutes. Plus, Jeff Foster was huge once again off the bench.
- Foster was a big factor in this game even though you'll never see it in the box score. I guess the 6 offensive rebounds expose a bit of what he brought to the game and the possession saving plays toward the end of regulation helped take the drama out of the finish. Foster wasn't directly responsible for Chandler's T, but he was in full needle mode, getting tied up with Chandler which helped him boil over.
- Danny Granger came out real flat in this game. In fact, he was the first wing subbed out of the game when JOB wasn't real happy with his effort. He showed up in the fourth quarter and seems to play much better at crunch time with Collison and Rush or Dunleavy sharing the load like they have in the past two games.
- Brandon Rush pitched in 20 points on 16 shots and drained several beautiful jumpers. A couple of times he was even aggressively begging for the ball to get a shot up. He also combined with Paul George to keep Jason Terry from going bonkers down the stretch.
- That was another nice thing to see from Paul George. Along with his four 3-balls and 16 points, JOB had him checking Jason Terry early in the fourth quarter. That's a tough guard, but some great experience for the rook.
- So after two wins in a row, it appears the Pacers have found something that works, riding Danny Granger, Darren Collison and either Brandon Rush or Mike Dunleavy to fuel the offense and then hitting the glass and taking care of the ball to secure the win. The Pacers only had 8 turnovers and out-rebounded the Mavs 46-41.
- Suddenly, Friday's game against Chicago is a heat-check game for the Pacers before they head out on the road. The Blue and Gold should be primed and ready to give the Bulls their best shot.