Remember last season when the Pacers started with a thrilling win over the Raptors, only to lose the next night to the lowly Bobcats? Well, the New Orleans Pelicans are not the Bobcats -- they're an up and coming team whom some believe could challenge for a playoff spot -- but the Pacers appeared to be heading to a disappointing loss in game 2 of the season just like last year.
But instead, the Pacers turned around a 16-point deficit in the third quarter into a gutsy 95-90 win to improve to 2-0 for the season. As Roy Hibbert said, the Pacers would have lost this game a year or two ago. However, despite being overwhelmed by the Pelicans' youth and energy in the first half, the Pacers never appeared rattled. They clawed and they scratched until got within striking distance -- and the difference in experience took over in the end.
The biggest shot of the game came with the Pacers up 1 and the shotclock winding down. George HIll tricked Jrue Holliday into thinking he was looking for the pass, and when Holliday backed off he drilled a huge 27-footer to give the Pacers a 4-point edge with around 30 seconds to go. David West and Paul George would combine to hit 6 from 6 clutch free throws to ice the game.
Paul George continued his superstar play with 32 points on 9-19 shooting, plus 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers. HIs confidence is sky high right now and he looks absolutely ready to assume the no. 1 role in the offense. Lance Stephenson had 16, 8 and 4 on 7-12 shooting, though his decision making was questionable at times. The easy with which he has been stroking his outside shot has been promising, and it appears the offseason work with a shooting coach is paying dividends.
After setting an opening night record with 18 blocks, the Pacers set another block party tonight with 12 blocks. Roy Hibbert had 5 blocks despite playing just 22 foul plagued minutes, and Ian Mahinmi also contributed with 4. The defensie is looking pretty scary right now, especially when Hibbert is on the floor -- which is why it is so important that he finds a way to stay on it.
David West had 12,7 and 5 but struggled with his shot, hitting just 3-11. Last year he took The Brow to school, but this time Anthony Davis got the better of him with a huge 20 and 12 game.
George Hill was very interesting. After struggling on opening night he continued to play turd ball in the first half tonight, turning the ball over, slow in getting to the 50-50 balls and failing to execute set plays, often leading to poor shots or shot clock violations with the clock winding down. Then magically, Hill flipped a switch in the second half and finished with 19 points on 6-13 shooting, including 4-7 from three-point range. He might have been a big reason the Pacers fell behind by 14 at the half, but he was also the main driver in the team's sensational comebackl.
The Pacers are just too sloppy with the ball and inconsistent offensively to be a great regular season team, which is why I think the 3rd or 4th seed is where they will likely end up. Don't get me wrong, I think they'll be the second best playoff team in the East after the Heat, but for the regular season they just don't have the mechanical execution of say a Bulls or Spurs team. This is why every win is so crucial, and it's a good sign that they found a way to grind out this victory.
That said, I still think they are one piece short of a championship team, and I'm not sure Danny Granger is that piece. To me, the Pacers are missing someone who can create shots for themselves off the dribble. Paul George is doing that better, but in the playoffs he'll need help. Watching Eric Gordon carve up the Pacers tonight for 25 points made me wish the Pacers had someone like him to create points when the offense becomes stagnant. The Pacers are unlikely to pry Gordon away from the Pelicans, but what about someone like Jamal Crawford from the Clippers? Imagine having his firepower off the bench. That would be awesome.
Anyway, the Pacers' next test is on Saturday against the Cavs at home. It'll be another test of how far this team has come and how much further it has to go.