It's been a while since the Indiana Pacers bench has shown the level of play they did tonight. Ten days to be exact. Nevermind the fact the two teams they've done this to in March have less combined wins than the Pacers have, with the 1-3 record this team has posted since that first win in Orlando, anything should be seen as a positive. Tonight was that kind of positive for the Pacers in a blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, getting 52 bench points in a 21-point victory.
While Cleveland began the game on fire to take a quick lead early, the Pacers responded in kind, taking the lead, and never looking back, slowly building the lead as the game progressed, as the starters spent the game in the fourth quarter as they did in the second quarter when the Pacers began to pull away: on the bench. David West sat tonight out with back issues, moving Tyler Hansbrough into the starting lineup as Frank Vogel also opted to give Gerald Green a shot in the rotation in hopes of sparking something from the bench.
And it was definitely the bench's show tonight. The four regular starters combined for 41 total points, leaving 70 for the bench and Hansbrough. Paul George had 14, looking poised for a big game early as Roy Hibbert had 12 points, nine boards, and five blocks. Tyler Hansbrough had another big game as a starter, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes.
The real surprise moving when looking at guys coming off the bench was Gerald Green. Green had 20 points and six rebounds in his effort tonight, going 7-13 from the field, and 4-7 from three point range. Is this sustainable? History would suggest sustainability is the last thing to look at with Green, but anything to give Green some confidence to go out and just play has to be a positive. Right?
Jeff Pendergraph had a solid showing tonight as well, scoring 11 points, including his first three-pointer, with Orlando Johnson and Ian Mahinmi each scoring eight as well. The grand total was 52 bench points, with each rotation player tonight reaching the scoreboard. Just as was the case 10 days ago, the next step is proving they can do this more consistently. Twice in a two week period is certainly a step in the right direction, but the bench averaged just 22.8 points in those four games in between, below their season average.
So of course, it's not time to go overboard. Enjoy tonight's win. The Pacers were matched up against a Cavaliers team short their two best players, well on their way to riding out the season for another high draft pick, but they made sure there was no doubt on the outcome tonight. Indiana assisted on 29 of their 39 field goals, outscoring Cleveland 42-26 in the paint, and 20-11 in points off turnovers. They did what they had to do, and will have to do the same thing tomorrow night at home against the Orlando Magic.