Even after the initial onslaught where the Charlotte Bobcats used timely shots and general Pacer lethargy to jump out to a 19-10 late in the first, the Indiana Pacers were unable to ever get a solid footing through much of the first two quarters to turn it around quickly and soundly get into a comfortable lead as Charlotte made a living on the offensive glass and second chance points. The heavy minutes for the starters in last night's win seemed to have a direct effect on the slow play, but fortunately, it was the bench who salvaged the game.
Tyler Hansbrough, back in North Carolina, had every reason to break out of his continuous struggles, and did so with 12 first half points. The Pacers jumped back into the lead with a Dahntay Jones three about halfway through the second, but general persistence kept Charlotte in a back and forth swing before Jones and Darren Collison scored all 14 of a 14-3 run to give Indiana a 10-point advantage, trimmed to just eight heading into the half.
The Bobcats were nothing if not persistent throughout the night, and those offensive rebounds paid huge dividends, especially early in the third quarter, where Pacer time gave way to 20 Bobcats points and five offensive rebounds through the first six minutes, knotting the game at 62 . What woke Indiana up, be it the timeout whistled or the fact they were tied 32 minutes in with the league worst Carolina Cougars, the Pacers opened the game wide open, cruising their way to a comfortable fourth quarter lead.
Despite the early rebounding struggles, the Pacers cracked down on the Charlotte offensive board opportunities, while padding their own offensive rebounding numbers, a lot of those coming on misses after misses after a miss or six, but also well worth noting they shot the ball extremely well from the free throw line tonight, noteworthy given the wealth of free throw shooting troubles they've had to contend with nightly. Hansbrough continued to play well in the second half, capping with a season high 22 points, being the face for a bench that shouldered the load as George Hill's return to the lineup proved to be that little extra push the Pacers needed to finally close out their final win before the All-Star Break.
After the jump, more on the Kinda(?)-Maybe(?)-Sorta(?)-Goon Squad.
- This was a big game for Tyler Hansbrough. Not only were his numbers there, but he was active in the way the Tyler Hansbrough from 2010-11 was, not in the way the almost always invisible Hansbrough from this season has been. Whether it was feeling the need to play well for his "home" crowd or the help of George Hill's return to ease his own burden, Hansbrough was positively Hansbrough.
- A.J. Price continues to deserve a wealth of credit for his play of late. Following a superb performance last night, he added in eleven more points to go alongside 6 assists and 4 boards. While Darren Collison is often prone to offensive inconsistencies, the depth of the bench offensively has been the supposed key advantage in regards to canceling out DC (and the other starters) struggles. It just hadn't materialized in any real tangible sense.
- And while Lance Stephenson has been playing better basketball, he's yet to find that scoring touch in the pro game, but for all his struggles in recent years, Price is absolutely the kind of bench scoring the Pacers need to be successful. It's hard to say whether Price is simply leveling out from his poor shooting start or if he's getting things together, but he's been playing stand out ball, smart ball for a number of games now, and he deserves to be getting those backup PG minutes so long as he continues to play smart.
- Would you believe Lou Amundson was two points shy of a double double? It begs the fair question: what happens when Lou Amundson gets a double double? Does an achievement unlock? Does confetti drop? Does a paradox to an alternate dimension open? Whatever the end result, it shouldn't take away from the active and feisty game Amundson had. Lou is another play that's been down a lot this year, but is still a key piece to this bench finding success given the lack of depth in the front court. You certainly can't expect this kind of offensive output (or general statistical output) from Lou too often, but if he can play at the level he did tonight often, that's more than enough for what he needs to be.
- George Hill had a sublime return to the lineup, showing exactly what it is the Pacers bench has been lacking. On one hand, it was a perfect storm of success for Hill to return on the night the second unit had themselves a night, but the other hand certainly hopes Hill's return opens up a lot of opportunities like this to be more common.
The Pacers have now won four straight games, a perfect send off into All-Star Weekend where Paul George and Roy Hibbert will be the Indiana representatives for all of the festivities in Orlando. Be sure to stay tuned to Indy Cornrows for the Rising Stars Challenge, Slam Dunk Contest, and the All-Star Game itself and Indiana looks to make their imprint on the weekend to go along their 21-12 season record as the year reaches it halfway point.