Saturday, February 1, 2014

An ugly win and the Bynum factor

The Pacers defeated the visiting Brooklyn Nets 97-96 Saturday night. The Pacers are now 36-10 while the Nets are 20-25.
The Big Plays
The Nets hung around in this game and the score was 76-76 when Pacers center Roy Hibbert made a nice up an under move, where he made the basket and also was fouled and made the free throw to give the Pacers the lead for good with 6:50 remaining. Another key play came with 57 seconds left when the Pacers were up by three and David West banked in a 10-footer. George Hill also made a key free throw with the Pacers up three in the final 30 seconds to keep it a two possession game and West made two free throws to put the lead at three points with 7.6 seconds left. West also hit another free throw with 4.2 seconds left to give the Pacers a four-point lead, which was key, since the Nets' Deron Williams hit a 3-pointer for what turned out to be the final score.
The Ups
1) For the second straight game the Pacers took advantage of center Roy Hibbert inside. After scoring 26 points in a loss against the Suns Thursday, he came back with 20 points Saturday night. Hibbert may have also had the most entertaining move of the night in the third quarter, when with the shot clock running down and standing at the edge of the free-throw line, he took two dribbles, made a ball fake pass to the middle, and then went in for the layup and was fouled. Roy the point guard, at least for a moment, also made that free throw to complete the three-point play. It brought a smile from Hibbert and some key points to the Pacers to put them up by 10 at the moment. Hibbert also added five rebounds and three blocked shots and as usual, just his presence in the paint keeps opponents outside the lane, making them take lower percentage shots.
Pacers power forward David West finished with
17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists Saturday.
2) When it comes to triple-double watches, Pacers fans usually think of Lance Stephenson. But the guy who got sort of close to that Saturday night was power forward David West. He finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He also hit those key free throws in the final seconds. And while all those things were important for this game, West's presence and leadership on the team has to be one the reasons that Pacers President Larry Bird felt the team could take the risk of signing Andrew Bynum.
3) One of the reasons the Pacers were able to win this one was because they easily won the rebound battle. They outrebounded the Nets 46-27, including getting eight rebounds from Paul George, along with seven each from West, Stephenson and Luis Scola. This game wasn't pretty to watch by any stretch, but the rebounding helped cover many of the Pacers mistakes.
The Downs
1) A lot of those mistakes were turnovers. The Pacers finished 23 for the game, and they had six of them in the third quarter. The disturbing thing about many of them is that they came on passes that really weren't necessary and were sometimes forced. The Pacers were fortunate to be catching the Nets on a second night of a back-to-back on this one, or the final result could have been different.
2) The Pacers bench continued its recent inefficiencies. Against the Nets they hit just 4 of 18 shots from the field, bringing their shooting total in the last four games to 36 of 113. Hopefully this is a midseason slump, but it's one of the reasons the Pacers have to give Andrew Bynum try (more on that below).
This may have been one of the Pacers ugliest wins of the season. It was as if they were still getting used to being home after coming home from their West Coast trip. That was understandable for Thursday, but not really for Saturday, especially with the Nets on the second night of a back-to- back. But nonetheless, a win is a win, and every team is glad to get them and nobody gives them back. These ups and downs are somewhat typical in a long NBA season, it's just good that the Pacers can win on at least a good number of these nights when they aren't at their best. The Pacers are 22-2 at home and now have beat the Nets all four times they have played them this season, so however you want to slice it, those are good things.
The Signing
The Pacers hope they get something
close the Lakers' version of Andrew Bynum.
The big news off the court came early Saturday morning when the Pacers announced they had signed free agent center Andrew Bynum for the rest of the season. One of big questions here is how will Bynum fit in with a team that has chemistry as one of its strengths. Bynum had signed a two-year deal with Cleveland before the season and averaged just over eight points and five rebounds before the Cavaliers essentially kicked him off the team, even though it officially came in a trade with the Bulls for Luol Deng. It's become apparent in the last couple of weeks that the Pacers' bench needed a boost, especially with little offensive output from backup center Ian Mahinmi. The fact that Bynum lasted longer than a month is obviously not a good sign either. But in an odd sort of way, that may actually work in the Pacers favor.
The fact he went unsigned for so long may have sent a bit of message to Bynum that he's not the hot commodity that he thought he was. He knows he needs to make a good impression with his attitude as well as be an effective player on the court to try and impress a potential suitor for next year. And the fact that the Pacers are likely to make a deep run into the playoffs, can also only help him. If Bynum can play a positive role in that run, he knows that will only help his value. So, this might not be as risky of a move as it appears. You also have to look down the road here a bit too, in that if Hibbert gets in foul trouble in a key playoff game, Bynum certainly has the potential to give the Pacers quality minutes off the bench. And finally, too, if the Pacers fall to the Heat again in the Eastern Conference finals, and they had not signed Bynum, they would have been left asking the "what if?" question. At least the front office can know it did all it could to make this a championship team. That's all you can really ask of them. Signing Bynum is not a slam dunk to work, but the decision to at least give it a try was a slam dunk.
Next Up
The Pacers play host to the Orlando Magic in a 7 p.m. game Monday. The Pacers opened the season with a 97-87 win against the Magic. Orlando has struggled as expected for much of this season with a 13-35 record going into their Sunday afternoon game at Boston. The Magic have been led by guard Arron Afflalo at 20 points per game. They also have rookie and former Indiana University star Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris each at 13.9 points a game, Jameer Nelson at 13.4 points, Nic Vucevic at 13.1 points and 10.8 rebounds and Glen Davis at 12.6 points. The Magic had particularly rough January where they went 3-14 for the month.

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