Post-Game Grades: Pacers Start Great, Stall Some then Pull Away to Beat T-Wolves
This one got off to a great start. The Pacers jumped out to a 10-0 lead, and it wasn’t long before they were looking up at the (temporarily malfunctioning) scoreboard to see themselves up 25-14.
And they still had five minutes to play in the first quarter.
They were scoring often and easily. Minnesota had no interior presence, and even when the Pacers did miss a shot, there was somebody nearby to grab the offensive rebound.
Often it was Roy Hibbert, who had a few early put-back and finished the game with a season-high 27 points. How he was scoring was as good to see as the total. He was aggressively going for dunks on putbacks and forcing the action on his interior looks while drawing contact. On at least two occasions, he made the layup and got the call. Since we’re talking about a player who has missed a ton of close shots and often been woefully slow to act even when he has deep post position, it was a welcome sight.
This wasn’t so much him gracefully posting up and making good on slick moves. It was more about him being a giant, aggressive, skilled man in the middle a paint who made sure that nobody was going to stop him from getting good position. Then, whenever the ball was in his hands, he used his size and stretch to try to put it through the rim in the most direct manner possible.
Minnesota’s front court has been ravaged by injuries, so the players opposing him were Greg Steimsma, Derrick Williams, Mickael Gelabale, Chris Johnson, and Dante Cunningham. Let’s not throw a parade. Still, it was nice to see him, in terms of process, play in a way that most people would like to see more of.
As far as the rest of the game, the Wolves stuck around and even threatened to take the lead a few times, even tying the score a few times after dropping down 11 early. But the early difference was enough: Indiana never really lost control of the game. It wasn’t pretty and there were some rough patches (look at the bench), but they quickly righted the course after each lull.
By the third quarter, when the Pacers ramped up the defensive pressure a little bit, it was starting to looking like Ricky Rubio needed a lot more help. Minnesota’s reserve guards continued to provide no assistance (Alexey Shved and JJ Barea combined to hit just 4-for-17 shots), and the Pacers pulled away.
|David West, PF 31 MIN | 6-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +22
The stat line is obviously standout, versatility- and efficiency-wise, but little plays like his outlet passing to spark the break can be huge. Always seem to come at the time when the team needs a little surge and you can just see how jacked up easy buckets get Paul, George and Lance.
|Paul George, SF 27 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +8
As he has done a litte more often since the All-Star break, he put up two or three questionable shots but the good so overvalues the bad that it feels like nitpicking. Guarded Rubio and they had a nice back-and-forth a few times, once after PG picked his pocket in the back court and then draw a foul on Ricky while going hard at the hoop. Had a sensational throw down on the break in another instance.
|Roy Hibbert, C 34 MIN | 10-15 FG | 7-8 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 3 TO | 27 PTS | +23
Best game of the season, in a production sense — by far. Season-high 27 points on just 15 shots. Nine ORBs. Followed up a few of those with prime-Kenyon-Martin-esque follow dunks. Pekovic, Love and AK-48 were injured, so he should have dominated, but this should be a big confidence boost no matter who was on the other side.
|George Hill, PG 35 MIN | 7-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +21
Hit a three early that helped Indiana start the game off 10-0, which was enough to maintain control of the game the whole time. Hill helped fuel that early urgency and helped keep the team maintain that gear all night.
|Lance Stephenson, SG 29 MIN | 2-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | +24
Not so good. Freelancing a little too much and just had a demeanor in which he seemed over-eager to force the action. Wasn’t the same, calm approach that has allowed him to selectively unleash his fury only when clear opportunities emerge.
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-6 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -6
Was a factor.
|Sam Young, SF 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -3
Team was playing so well early that even Sam was getting in on the scoring.
|Ian Mahinmi, C 14 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -7
Had a pin-it-on-the-glass block that made me call 9-1-1 on Quinn Buckner, who seemed to have an aneurysm yelling “SMOTHERED CHICKEN” — in a good way.
|D.J. Augustin, PG 15 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +1
Played 15 minutes.
|Orlando Johnson, SG 22 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -3|