Frank Vogel is now 2-0 as head coach of the Indiana Pacers, but there surely wasn't any ceremonial game ball given to the coach after his team held on for dear life before making just enough plays to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers ,117-112 and extend Cleveland's losing streak to 22 games.
In fact, the Pacers should quickly shower and get out of Cleveland as fast as they can with that W tucked away in their carry-on luggage.
As ugly as this game was, the end result was worth the assault to the senses caused by too much sloppy play and too many defensive breakdowns by the Pacers in the big middle of the game. Essentially, the Pacers won the first five minutes and the last five minutes of the game which ended up being enough to keep the Cavs adding to the loss column.
The Pacers jumped out to a 12-0 lead and then pushed that lead to 21-6 just five minutes into the game. Cleveland would cut that lead to five by the end of the first quarter. Then the Pacers appeared to seize control of the game again, pushing the lead back up to 17, before the Cavs made a last second quarter run to cut the lead back down to five again at the half.
The Cavs started believing this would be the night in the second half and a great crowd, considering the game on the court, was into it as well. The game remained tight the rest of the way and when Cleveland took their first lead late in the third quarter, the recent history of the Pacers made it feel like a big "uh-oh night" was on the way.
With 8:45 left in the game, the Pacers were up one and Frank Vogel returned his full starting lineup to the floor. Not taking any chances with this one.
But the Cavs were far too invested and it took the starters a couple of minutes to raise their level of play to match the intensity the Cavs were showing. Both teams played some of the sloppiest ball you can imagine for a couple of minutes. Starters to the rescue wasn't going to smoothly and it felt like this would be the Cavs' night.
Then Danny Granger stepped up.
In the final five minutes of the game, the de facto leader of the Pacers led his team down the stretch to a win. Granger accounted for 12 of the Pacers final 15 points, scoring 9 on his own and assisting a Darren Collison 3-pointer.
Granger had some success driving the ball in the lane and with the game tied and a little more than a minute remaining, DG drew the defense when he took the ball in the lane. Once cut off, Granger jumped up, turned and found a wide-open Collison who knocked down the 3-ball to give the Pacers a lead they would never relinquish.
It wasn't easy, though as the Pacers had to get a couple of late stops and that's what it will say in the scorebook, but the Cavs helped out with some puzzling execution. Granger was fouled after the last two stops and was able to put the game on ice by making all four of his free throws.
So, yeah, it wasn't pretty and the Cavs lived up to their billing as the worst team in the NBA, but the Pacers won on the roa which is another little positive for the team to build on.
After the jump, a few more thoughts and observations on the win.
- The Pacers shots scored 117 points, shot 47% and crushed the Cavs on the glass, 49-32. So how in the world was this game so close? Well, after jumping out to a big lead, the Pacers seemed to get the wrong end of every questionable call and the Cavs took advantage. For the game, Cleveland shot 44 free throws and made 35 of the freebies. That combined with just enough turnovers by the Pacers (18) made for a dicey night by the lake for the Pacers.
- Vogel stuck with the same 10-player rotation he used against Toronto with T.J. Ford and James Posey logging the DNP-CDs for the night. There were some adjustments due to play and game situations. Mike Dunleavy played the SG minutes down the stretch instead of Paul George. Tyler Hansbrough played more PF minutes although both Hans and McRoberts had inconsistent nights. Hans finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds, but McRoberts closed out the game on the floor.
- Granger finished with a team-high 23 points, but struggled with 4 turnovers and shooting only 5 of 13 from the floor. His efforts to force the action in the lane were rewarded though as he made 12 of 13 free throws.
- Darren Collison continued to look like an unshackled waterbug enjoying the bulk rate pick n' rolls he's now asked to orchestrate from the top of the key. Collison had a couple of head-shaking turnovers but made plenty of plays, including making that big 3-ball late in the game. DC finished with 22 points, 9 assists and 4 steals which helped him keep paces with his counterpart Ramon Sessions who put up 25 and 9 for the Cavs.
- Roy Hibberts finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks. He started the game strong, converting offensive opportunities from deep in the post. As the game wore on, Hibbert struggled to make his jump hooks in the lane and ended up shooting 5 for 13 from the floor.
- Rookie Paul George knocked down 3 of 4 three-pointers including a big shot late in the third quarter when the Pacers were trying to keep Cleveland at bay. George finished with 13 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds.
- Hopefully these last two wins will serve as a mini training camp for the team under coach Vogel. Offense doesn't appear to be a problem, although the sloppy play from some of the adjusted playing rotations has been an issue. Plus, the team really needs to pick up the defensive effort. Back to reality on Friday when the Portland Trail Blazers visit Indy. The Pacers will have to upgrade their level of play with the upgrade in opponent.