Make no mistake: this was an ugly game. Both sides were sloppy, missed a lot of shots up close, lost control of the ball and turned it over on numerous occasions. Botched fast break layps and dunks (including one by Paul George). But the good news is that the Indiana Pacers still came out on top with an 89-74 win they appeared to be in control of for most of the game. That moves their perfect record up to 3-0 and has the team looking fairly good but with still plenty of areas for improvement.
Starting point guard George Hil was supposed to be day-to-day with a sore hip that wouldn't keep him out of tonight's game, but Frank Vogel kept him out as what I hope is just a precaution (he should return Tuesday night in Detroit). The concern was of course that Kyrie Irving would razzle dazzle and light up the Pacers with a virtuoso performance, but the team shut him down pretty well, keeping him to 15 points on 7-21 shooting. The guy that did light them up a little in the second quarter was Dion Waiters, who had a strong second quarter with 9 points and finished with 17, but he finished the game shooting just 7-21.
As for the Pacers, the game tonight belonged to Paul George and Lance Stephenson, who is quickly making everyone forget about the absence of Danny Granger (who will sit out for another couple of weeks to heal is strained calf). George had 21 points on 8-17 shooting, keeping his shooting percentage above 48% for the season, whole also grabbing a team high 13 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. While George was the star of the night, Stephenson was the ultimate wingman, scoring a season high 22 points on 7-13 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Stephenson had 13 points in the 4th quarter to put the game away early.
The Pacers big men didn't have a great night. Roy Hibbert was the best of the lot and he had 11 points and jst 5 rebounds to go with 2 blocks and 4 turnovers. David West continued to struggle with 4 points on 2-7 shooting while battling foul trouble for most of the night, and his replacement Luis Scola didn't fare much better with also 4 points but on one less FG attempt. Ian Mahinmi had 2 points and 7 rebounds.
George Hill's replacement, CJ Watson, had a solid game and had 7 points, 6 assists and 2 steals, but shot just 2-8, with many of his misses wide open or at least semi-open. He wasn't alone though -- the Pacers missed a lot of wide open shots tonight, which is a problem I attribute to a grinding style of play that doesn't allow players to get into a smooth offensive rhythm. But I guess as long as they drag the other team down with them and win it's not a huge problem.
The Pacers looked in control but would cough up the ball with some bone-headed plays (they had 20 turnovers tonight, 12 in the first half) whenever it appeared they were about to put the game away, leading to a min-Cavs spurt. Whenever the Cavs got close, however, the Pacers would string together some nice plays and get the lead back up again. It was that kind of a night.
The most positive thing about the game is that no player on the team played more than 32 minutes (Stephenson) and George only played 30. In a long season it's important to have nights like these where the starters can get some rest.
Next up is a road test against the new and improved Detroit Pistons, who have added Josh Smith to bolster their starting lineup anchored by Greg Monroe. He's going to be a handful for Hibbert and I think it will be an interesting battle that will show us just how good Hibbert is going to be this season. The Pacers will play the next night after that against the Bulls back home in their first "big" game of the season, but they can't overlook the Pistons, whom many believe will be right there in the mix challenging for a playoff spot in the East.