After an atrocious night shooting against Boston earlier this week, the Pacers were back to their well-shooting ways against Orlando Friday night.
Writing this piece regarding the Boston game, I had a tough time finding highlights and I had too many lowlights to choose from. Tonight, it's the other way around. Let's get to it.
It's no secret that Paul has been struggling over the past few games. He's seemed tense and like he isn't enjoying being out on the floor. Tonight, I was ecstatic to see George back to his normal self. He was loose, free-flowing and there were few things the Magic were able to do to slow him down. Ending the night having shot 8-12 and a remarkable 4-5 from long range, the Pacers were 17 points better with him on the floor. George also had just two turnovers, which is something that has been plaguing him as of late.
It's comforting to see him playing well as the teams' showdown with the Heat in South Beath approaches.
I'll be the first person to tell you how great it is to include recent lowlights in the highlights section of this piece. After a game that saw the Pacers shoot a ridiculous 27 three's (only making six), the Pacers looked much more in control of their shots tonight. They were getting the shots they set out to get. They shot 52% from the floor and a jaw-dropping 58% from beyond the arc.
Against Boston, the Pacers were tense and firing up low percentage shots early in the shot clock at a rate that made me wonder how Boston only won by two.
Tonight, against the Magic, the Pacers were calm, cool, collected and getting high percentage looks when and where they wanted to get them. They didn't let anything the Magic threw at them defensively get in the way of their offensive plans. When the Pacers shoot this well across the board, there isn't a team in the league they can't compete with.
No, that isn't a type-o. Yes, I am purposely including the bench of the Indiana Pacers in the highlights section of this piece. No, this is absolutely not a mistake.
The Pacers bench was absolutely phenomenal tonight. Particularly Tyler Hansbrough and D.J. Augustin. T. Hansbrough was 7-10 from the floor and had a handful of rebounds. Tyler has always had a high motor, and he's always been someone who takes full advantage of the opportunities he's given. This was a bit of a coming out party for him. Tonight, we saw what that kid is truly capable of, and man, was it sweet to watch.
I'm going to be honest here and say that I haven't ever really liked Augustin. I think he's overrated and is not currently capable of being a starter in the NBA. However, I will give credit where credit is due, and Augustin was great tonight.
If he could consistently play at the level he played tonight, he could most definitely be the Pacers' sixth man. He's quick, has the ability to make his shot fall and his able to consistently create space for himself against pesky defenses. Consistency has proven to be his biggest enemy. I loved what I saw out of him tonight.
I feel as though it's almost pointless to include defense in the highlights, because it has been so consistently dominant for so long.
Tonight, the boys in gold held the Magic to 39% shooting from the floor to go along with 33% shooting from 3-point land.
This will be the teams biggest asset entering their contest against the Miami Heat. The Pacers are so good at forcing the opposition to settle for jump shots rather than driving to the basket. They also do a marvelous job when it comes to clogging the passing lanes, which results in a number of steals and points in transition.
Roy, Roy, Roy. Another player plagued by consistency. Roy is always hopping back and forth between the highlights and lowlights section of these pieces. Tonight, Roy was just....bad. Anytime he has less than eight rebounds, that's a failure. When you are 7'2", there is absolutely no reason you should end up with just two rebounds, especially against a team like the Orlando Magic.
I'll throw Hibbert a bone. He's not getting the ball enough. Just five shot attempts for your starting center is absolutely not enough. This contributes to Roy's low rebounding numbers as well. I do believe he's way too soft for his size, but there's nothing Roy can do if he doesn't have the ball in his hands. Feed the beast.
I think West was due for a poor night. He's been great as of late, and you could tell he was tired out there tonight. A 4-13 night shooting is what West needed to get out of his way before the teams' showdown at Miami. West was settling for jump shots when he's long been a player who bullies his way to the rim with no regard for the safety of anyone in his way.
He was passive tonight, which could be a cause for alarm. However, I'm not really worried at all. Again, he's been consistently great for a few weeks now, and he was due for a poor performance. I'd rather it come in a blowout win over the Magic than in a pivotal game against the best team in the NBA.
One thing: tonight, we confirmed the fact that the Pacers bench has the ability to make a positive difference in the game. This has long been the facet of this team people point out when explaining way the Pacers won't seriously contend for a title. As a skeptic, I am leaning towards calling this game a fluke, however, I do have an optimistic side to me, and I truly believe this bench has the wherewithal to consistently play at the level they played this evening. If they can do so against Miami, there is absolutely no reason to believe they can't win.