On the heels of the team’s sixth straight loss, the Indiana Pacers faced a must-win when the New Jersey Nets came to town. And despite winning all four meetings against New Jersey last season, the Nets entered the game winning four of their last five, making it far from a sure thing, especially as the Pacers would be without Brandon Rush and Tyler Hansbrough. The end result, however, proved to be quite the opposite, as the Pacers torched the Nets to the tune of 124-92 to snap their season long losing streak at six.
The game remained close in the first quarter as Roy Hibbert came to play, scoring ten first quarter points on his way to his first 20-point game in two months, as he and Brook Lopez renewed their battle between the third-year centers. New Jersey led this one by six before Indiana took the lead for good on a 9-0 run. The Nets used a 7-0 run to close the gap early in the second before put it to rest by responding with a 7-0 run of their own. The Pacers struggled heavily from the line in the first half, but still managed to end the half with 68 points.
The Pacers came out firing in the third quarter, making six three pointers in the quarter alone, to push the game well out of reach as Paul George finished it off with a bank three to end the quarter. Indiana didn’t let up the gas, and pushed the game to its final score difference at 32 points, their biggest win of the season.
Indiana not only put on an offensive clinic, but did so in stunning fashion. The Pacers finished the night 50-80 from the field, a cool 62.5%, assisted on 31 of those 50 FGs (to just 9 turnovers), scored 58 points in the paint, and dished out some medicine Orlando had dealt to them by shooting 12-22 from the three point arc. The only downside was in the free throw game, as Indiana shot just 12-21 from the line, well off their usual reliability at the line.
The Pacers did shoot extraordinarily well, but as we’ve seen, they’re capable of getting red hot, which helps offset those blistering cold nights they’re prone to. All twelve Pacers saw action and contributed to the scoreboard, and everyone except James Posey finished with at least 50% shooting. But in Posey’s defense, he was the only player to reach the line who didn’t miss from the line to make up for that small fact. It was the kind of feel good win the team absolutely needed to not only stop the losing streak, but to restore a little bit of faith in the team’s recent struggles.
After the jump, good nights should last longer:
- Mike Dunleavy led the way with 30 points, and did so on 12-16 shooting, a ridiculous 6-7 from the three point arc. Adding in his four rebounds and five assists, and it’s easy to think that maybe, just maybe, Dunleavy had the best game of anyone tonight. It would be nice to see him put on an encore performance tomorrow night in Chicago, no?
- Roy Hibbert! The big fella finally, finally played Hungry Hungry basketball. Whether motivated by Brook Lopez, or the lack of defense played by the Nets, Hibbert would end up with 20 points on 7-12 shooting, by far his best night since the Pacers defeated the Lakers exactly two months ago. Before the game, in discussing his struggles, Austin Croshere stated he didn’t feel offense from Roy was necessary for the Pacers to be successful. I politely disagreed with that assessment and tonight was exactly the reason why. The Pacers, when running through Roy, create plenty of potential for what they’re capable of doing offensively. And if not in scoring, then at least in shooting the ball well; Indiana improved to 8-5 in games where Hibbert shoots better than 50% from the field. It’d be nice to see Roy build on that for a return to prominence, after the game being quick to state, "Hey, Stacy! I’m putting on some weight, can you tell?" Beef up, Big Roy.
- Paul George won the rookie battle between him and Nets first round pick Derrick Favors. George was automatic tonight. He finished the game 6-7, going 5-5 from within the arc, including some ridiculous shots. It’s easy to expect big things when your rookie can’t seem to miss from midrange, possesses such a wide array of skill sets, and can make big contributions in such a limited capacity. What to look for with George isn’t how far he can take his current, (let’s face it) really outstanding play, but how he responds when he runs into a wall. Favors on the other hand seemed to be a very raw player. He is certainly limited offensively, but showed a couple of promising moves here and there. His reaction and up time is impressive, but he’s got a lot of work to do.
- As opposed to the nightmare T.J. Ford/Darren Collison combo meal, A.J. Price was given time at the two guard opposite of T.J. Ford. The result? A.J. Price certainly knows how to get his shot. Price, though undersized, works well as a two, because he is such a natural scorer. Ford was limited in his contributions, but the duo worked better when Collison replaced Ford. Collison himself was very quiet tonight and didn’t search for his game offensively, but did a great job of facilitating the offense, ending up with 8 assists, but was eventually netted with three of the team’s nine turnovers, though the Pacers as a team committed zero through the first 22:30 of the game.
- Josh McRoberts played a really solid game. Not only did he work the offensive in facilitation, but pitched a really strong game against Favors, limiting his output and forcing him to work. Josh tempted the rookie on multiple occasions to take shots from range, and when Favors took him up on the offer, he failed to complete the shot. The upsetting thing is that, while by no means a must see NBA player, McRoberts has shown enough that with his skill set, the Pacers can shine. Maybe not every night, but on nights he contributes and does what the team needs on both ends, the team ends up winning more often than they don’t. McRoberts went from inactive to starting when Hansbrough went ahead of the team with a seemingly mild case of pneumonia, and will likely go back to street clothes for tomorrow’s game. It leads me to believe that McRoberts is being preserved for a trade out of Indiana by the deadline, or else I will be convinced this could be the worst run franchise in the NBA to allow a player of Josh’s skill sets to be inactive despite making such positive contributions to a winning cause.
- All this and no mention of Danny Granger? Just to show you how well this team can play. Granger finished the night with a quiet 18 points in just 24 minutes, but did so on 7-12 shooting, and drained four three pointers, three of those in the third quarter as the Pacers put the game on ice early. Rest up, Danny, the Pacers will certainly need his A-game tomorrow night.
Indiana will make the short flight up to Chicago for a Saturday night tip against the Bulls. The Pacers have had terrible luck against the defensive-minded Bulls, who certainly won’t be allowing the Pacers to shoot 63% and score 124 points. In a crucial stretch for the team, this would be a huge boost to getting the season back on a positive track, but for now, enjoy the win, and enjoy the end to the six game losing streak, hopefully for good. Usually, it's not bad to get a night or two off to enjoy wins like these, but I want to see how this team responds immediately, so it's a good thing in my book that this can't be enjoyed for too long.