After being the topic of recent concerns for the Indiana Pacers, the second unit really made a splash tonight, getting impressive play off the bench, especially offensively from Tyler Hansbrough and D.J. Augustin. When the Orlando Magic couldn't close the gap in the second half against the bench, it opened up the door for a 29-point rout, giving the Pacer starters plenty of rest heading into Sunday night's matchup.
The bench scored 50 for the night, 25 in each half, getting 32 total from Hansbrough and Augustin. Hansbrough entered tonight's game averaging 3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in his last seven finished the night with 18 points and six boards. Hansbrough was 7-10 from the floor, getting to the line six times, and making an impact due to his energy, instead of simply being a hustle guy. Augustin on the other hand had 14 points to go with eight assists, entering the game 0-8 in his last five games. Augustin knocked down four three pointers.
While the two were the catalysts for Indiana's success with the second unit, Ian Mahinmi did well with six boards and a pair of blocks. Sam Young had five assists to go with five points. Gerald Green had seven points late in the fourth quarter on a pair of high caliber alley oops. Getting production off the bench, much less production that can mostly overshadow the play of the starters in a positive way, is a welcome sight, especially when you see Orlando Johnson didn't have himself a good shooting night.
One game doesn't make up for a season of bench struggles, but it's a welcome sight to know guys like Hansbrough can still contribute on the NBA level and that the bench, even without Danny Granger, can maintain leads, and maybe even build them, albeit against a team like the Orlando Magic. There have been nights like this before, but the next step is to hopefully find some consistency from guys off the bench as the playoffs near. With a bench that can save putting the starters in a tough spot, the Pacers will be a tough team to beat when the games start meaning a lot more in late April.
The starters were mostly overshadowed in a very positive way, but that doesn't take away from an explosive night from Paul George, who had 25 points, including 18 alone in the third quarter. George lit it up with three consecutive three pointers to put to rest any potential Orlando comeback, shooting 8-12 from the floor, and a welcome 4-5 from three point range, taking into account his less than stellar road shooting compared to how he does at home.
While Roy Hibbert has played better offensively lately, tonight was one of the first times you could watch him and feel he really looked good with the ball in his hands. He finished with 10 points on 3-5 shooting, getting five blocks. Lance Stephenson continued to play at a high level pushing the tempo, scoring 10 on 5-7 shooting, with George Hill also scoring in double figures with 11 on 5-9.
The Pacers shot 51.8%, including 11-19 from three point range, holding Orlando to just 39% shooting and under 90 points. They assisted on 33 of their 43 field goals, committed just 13 turnovers (forcing 21 and outscoring Orlando 30-8 in points off turnovers), dominated the paint 50-26, and were big in putting the Magic out in fast break points in the third quarter. All of this is a positive for a team who just won their fourth straight road game for the first time all year, setting them up to face the Miami Heat on Sunday.
The Miami game will tip immediately after the Indiana Hoosiers and Michigan Wolverines wrap up play on Sunday with the Big Ten title on the line, giving no excuse to not check out the blue and gold in their quest to sweep the defending champion Heat, who are looking for their 17th straight win, leading by a point after three against Philadelphia.
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