It was a big night for Danny Granger. You wouldn't know it looking at the box score and you wouldn't know it from watching him the first three quarters, but it was a big night for Danny Granger. Up until the late stages of the third quarter, the Indiana Pacers went to work, casually building a 21-point lead on the Utah Jazz before foul trouble sent Paul George out, and the scorching Darren Collison wasn't getting quite the success he was through the game to that point. Utah began to mount their comeback, cutting the 21-point game to six in five minutes on a 23-8 run.
Tyler Hansbrough and Dahntay Jones would pull the game back to double digits, but at 84-73, it was the last time the Pacers would score for six and a half minutes. One of the big thing that gave Utah extra life was their success at points at the end of quarters. It's deceptive when those shots go in when you're looking at leads in each of the three quarters, but the seven points Utah scored on their last possession of each quarter ended up playing a huge role in the game as the fourth quarter started with the Jazz down seven.
Of course, as seems to be a nightly ritual (along with the Pacers storming out of the half) is Indiana finding a stretch of the game where they cannot get a basket, and from the final 90 seconds of the third into the first five minutes of the fourth, they looked up at the scoreboard and saw the Jazz had creeped into the lead. The Pacers, who had been successful with great ball control committed three turnovers to start the fourth to go alongside a pair of rejections that led an 0-9 stretch for the blue and gold.
But Danny Granger got hot, scoring the next 8 Pacers points to help weather the Utah offensive attack. Granger didn't just bring it with shots, but contributed to great ball movement and solid defensive play once Paul George's three pointer put Indiana up three points. Then with 25 seconds left, Granger pulled up and casually drilled the game's dagger to not only prevent another Sacramento-esque collapse, but to really step up as the leader the team desperately needed when the game got tight and things weren't going their way, helping the team improve to 17-7 and continue their streak of wins following losses.
After the jump, how about some love for Darren Collison, huh?
- It's hard to not give all of the credit to Danny Granger for his play in Winning Time, but he certainly wasn't on his game for three quarters the way Darren Collison was to help the Pacers build the 21-point lead. DC led the Pacers with 25 points, 5 assists, and 4 boards, playing a one man wrecking crew for Indiana. The interesting thing about Collison is that it's easy to tell when he's going to have it or not. If he's hitting that floater, he's someone to go to, and tonight was one of those nights. He had 17 points at the half and 23 through three to help define his quality night.
- Paul George is getting scary on defense when he begins to ball hawk. He recorded three more steals tonight, his sixth straight game with a steal and his 11th in the last three contests. To top it off, despite foul trouble limiting his action in the first and third quarters, he came up big on the offensive end with 14 points in his 27 minutes. His three pointer with the game winding was a result of great passing, and was enough to keep Utah at bay, and after a season of ups and downs, he's found some consistency, grabbing his fifth straight double figure game.
- One of the most common questions regarding the Pacers is why isn't Roy Hibbert fed more often? Like every play more often? Al Jefferson proved to be a non-factor against Hibbert early in the game, and his effortless post play was marvelous to watch as the big fella sunk in 17 points. But add in another double double, some key defensive play leading to four blocks, and some always remarkable hustle plays, and you're left with a stand-up performance from Hibbert.
- The bench wasn't remarkable, but did provide a lot of solid play that helped the Pacers mount their lead. Lance Stephenson led the way with 8 points, but needs to hit the free throw line tomorrow after an 0-4 performance. Dahntay Jones has really come around to play some solid basketball lately and despite an off night shooting, really felt like he played a solid all-around game. A.J. Price got a little bit of an offensive rhythm going.
- Brownsburg native and Butler hero Gordon Hayward returned home, scoring an efficient 11 points and grabbing 3 boards in a pretty solid night that shows he's getting his chance in the NBA and making the most of it.
The Pacers were able to bounce back after a tough loss on Saturday and their fresh legs early really helped fuel their superb play. It was an impressive stretch as it didn't feel like the Pacers were really beating the pants off of the Jazz, but simply going to work and building their success. So maybe that's part of how the Jazz were able to make an admirable comeback, but credit to the Pacers (especially Granger) for hanging tough and holding on for the victory.
Indiana gets to head right back on the road on a trip that leads them into Atlanta and Memphis, teams they're a combined 4-12 against since 2008, including a rather non-competitive four game losing streak to Memphis. Both teams are short key players, but neither should be looked at lightly for a Pacers team that is still looking to improve and stay near the top of the Eastern Conference.