It's not so crazy to expect the Indiana Pacers would've found a way to rebound from what had taken place in Milwaukee. Frank Vogel was ready to go, and apparently, the mood was contagious. It took a bit; the Pacers stormed out of the gate, but a Dallas Mavericks team full of familiar faces like Darren Collison, Troy Murphy, and Jim O'Brien played tough in the first half, taking a halftime lead from a Pacers team that was far more energetic and had better motion on offense and movement with the ball. That doesn't even take note of the fact they were actually hitting shots. The only thing they didn't do well in the first half was hit free throws, going 6-14 from the stripe.
Even trailing, the positives were there, but to believe the Pacers would run away the way they did in the second half? Let's not go overboard here. But yet, in the third quarter, there was Lance Stephenson, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the period, lighting a fire for the Pacers, and giving them a 15-point lead. Indiana continued to move forward, shrugging off any Mavericks run, ballooning the lead into the 20's in the fourth quarter, capping a smooth 103-83 victory that gives the Pacers a little bit of the swagger they claim to have.
You have to feel good tonight after the incredibly rough week. The total team effort of the Pacers had finally shown up for an entire game. The team that couldn't stop turning the ball over had just eight tonight leading to just four Maverick points. The pitiful assist numbers turned into 23 assists on 39 field goals. The team shot over 45% for just the second time this season. And free throws? A 13-17 second half from the line (an even better 11-13 to finish the game). Talk about fun.
Sam Young's return to the lineup was a huge part of the Pacers second half run, scoring 14 points off the bench on 6-11 shooting, coming up big on the defensive end. Six Pacers reached double figures. Stephenson, Young, Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, and George Hill with no one scoring above 15. Indiana got ample production off of the bench for the first time all season, with them carrying the load at times in the second half, allowing the starters to slow it down a bit in the second half.
Offensive movement was a big key in tonight's game; the Pacers actually looked like a team instead of failed 1-on-1 battles every possession. The Pacers did assist on over 50% of their field goals, with Hill leading the team with seven dimes. D.J. Augustin played within his role, adding in four with no turnovers. Ian Mahinmi showed out for his former team with seven points on some athletic moves to the basket. But where everyone showed up for the Pacers tonight, no one was a bigger sigh of relief than Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert reached 14 points tonight, notable for the fact seven of those came in the final period. Even despite an overall 5-15 night, Roy looked more relax and involved in the game than he has at any other point in the season. While reading too much into Hibbert's night (rather, end of the night) is the same as overreacting to the Pacers ups and downs so far in the season, tonight was a good barometer of what this Hibbert and this team can be when they play loose and without concern, something that had been lacking throughout the first nine games.
What this win means is the Pacers are back in the win column, but what it doesn't mean is that all the problems in the world are fixed. A lot of things had to go wrong for the Pacers to slip into their early struggles, but things don't just go wrong when you play as poorly as you do against Milwaukee, meaning this team can't erase their first nine games with one good one. Enjoy tonight for what it is; a solid, well earned victory that finally gave you the Pacers you had expected, but the NBA darling New York Knicks are the next challenge on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The road doesn't get any easier.
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