What's the solution for a Pacers team that (with the exception of the New Jersey game) hasn't been able to hit a shot all season? Play a team with worse offensive execution.
That happened tonight as the Pacers and the Celtics played an offensively abysmal first half after which the Pacers led 33-25. Both teams played a little better offensively in the second half, and the Pacers were never seriously threatened (though gave me a few cold sweats) on their way to a comfortable but ugly 87-74 win.
With the victory, the Pacers bounce back from an ugly blowout loss to the Miami Heat and improve to 5-2 on the season. This was the one game of the young season that I totally expected the Pacers to blow but they ended up proving me wrong in gutting out a win in Boston.
- The Pacers showed some promise on the offensive end in the second half. They only shot 40.5%, which was shockingly their second best shooting night of the season. There are too many good shooters and offensive players on this team for them to shoot this poorly. A lot of it has to do with the team taking too long to set up the offense, leading to poor shots with the clock winding down. It's up to Frank Vogel to get them to continue sharing the ball, cutting and taking good shots.
- Danny Granger top-scored with 15 (on 3-14 shooting), but for most of the game he wasn't very good. Until the assist to Collison for a three-pointer that iced the game, his best contribution was knocking down some free throws, not exactly what you want from your "best player". Granger was regularly driven past by Paul Pierce (who fortunately had an awful 3-17 shooting night) and continuously missed Ray Allen along the three-point line. As long as Granger is delivering in the clutch everything else is forgiveable but there has to come a time when his pathetic shooting percentage goes up. The question is when that will happen. Considering how often he didn't even touch the ball during stretches of the game, one wonders whether the Pacers are starting to think trade. Oh, and one more thing. Granger needs to stop dribbling.
- Darren Collison played another solid game with 14 points and 4 assists, hitting some big shots down the stretch. He will never be a dominat point guard or a great defensive player because of his size, but he has definitely shown improvement this season with his poise and decision making. With George Hill not really much of a floor general, Collison will need to log some heavy minutes at the point this season.
- Speaking of improvement, Roy Hibbert is getting it done (11 and 12, 4 on the offensive end). He doens't look as afraid of the ball and his shots are being tossed up with more promise, even though they aren't necessarily falling (5-15). His rebounding is what is standing out for me most right now. Roy has 5 double-doubles from 7 games this season. Not bad for a career 5.8 per game rebounder.
- Jeff Foster made his debut tonight and immediately proved his worth, grabbing big offensive boards (3 in 15 minutes) and taking charges. Welcome back, Jeff. We missed you.
- AJ Price logged some minutes in place of the injured Lance Stephenson, and he was pretty damn good. Price can shoot and he is an excellent pick and roll player. The alley-oop to Paul George was the highlight of the game. If I were Vogel I would put Price ahead of Stephenson in the depth chart, at least for now.
- George Hill is really finding his groove now. 13 points, 5 rebounds and a team-leading +16 plus-minus. The Indiana native can flat out play. He's not a good playmaker but if he can make plays for himself. If the Pacers use him the right way he will become an invaluable piece of the puzzle.
- The other George, Paul George, had 12 points on 5-7 shooting tonight. His shot has been going down so far this season and he is great in the open court, but PG needs to stop dribbling the ball. He's also been a bit of a lazy passer. Need to work on those aspects of his game.
- Tyler Hansbrough is a valuable energy guy who can get you points off the bench, but his game is so ugly. And his defensive instincts absolutely stink. There is a reason the Pacers wanted a new starting PF so badly. Come on Psycho-T, you can do better than that. And he has yet to register a single assist this season, though I am sure I saw him pass the ball once tonight.
- Last but not least, David West, who downplayed "almost" going to the Celtics before signing with the Pacers, had an off night again, with just 2 points, but he did have 10 boards and 3 assists. I don't care though -- West is going to be huge for this team once he gets his legs back. Even if it's just 70-80% it will make a massive difference with this team. His calmness, steadiness and leadership will eventually make him the most reliable player on this team night in night out.