Friday, March 21, 2014

Pacers bullish in this win

The Pacers defeated the visiting Chicago Bulls 91-79 Friday night. The Pacers are now 51-18, including 32-4 at home, while the Bulls fell to 38-31.
Now that was more like it. If the Pacers had been just an decent team early on in the season, this game might be looked on as one of the best performances of the season. But the fact is they played like this quite often in the first half of the season, but had not been doing that lately. Yes, they have been beating some below average teams, but the Pacers are good enough now that how you win sometimes matters just as much as if you win. After the loss at New York Wednesday, when some of the Pacers were voicing their displeasure with each other that was actually a good sign. The fact they were openly admitting they weren't playing the way they needed too was a big step. No blaming the referees, or just running into a hot player or a hot opposing team. That responsbility led to the Pacers defense being what it once was. The real key now will be to carry these types of efforts throughout the rest of the regular season. That's going to be the best way to get ready for the playoffs.
The Big Plays
It wasn't so much one big play in this game, but a couple key runs that spurred the Pacers to victory. First, the reserves came in and turned a 23-21 deficit at the end of the first quarter in a 42-35 advantage with 3:54 left in the half. Then, the starters continued that momentum in the third quarter by going on a 19-0 run that built the Pacers lead to 17 points. The Bulls were never closer than eight points the rest of the way.
The Ups
1) It's not often than Paul George gets accolades on a night where he hits just 3 of 13 shots and scores just 10 points. But George may have taken a big step forward in this game, realizing he was getting extra attention from a good Bulls defense, he made sure everyone was involved in the offense and he finished with his first triple double of the year with 12 rebounds and 10 assists. The fact that George didn't force up a bunch of bad shots and try to win the game by himself was a pleasant thing to see in this one, even if he did miss most of the ones he took.
Luis Scola scored a season-high 19 points Friday.
2) The bench may have had its best game of the season. Led by Luis Scola's season-high 19 points, the reserves scored 34 points in this one, and that was without point guard C.J. Watson and center Andrew Bynum. And while the numbers were good and all, the energy the bench players brought into the game in the second quarter was a big factor in this win. They combined to score 23 of their points in the first half. When that happens, the Pacers are a real difficult team to beat.
3) The team play returned on both ends in this one. On defense, the Pacers held the Bulls to 36 percent shooting from the field. And while the Bulls can be a bit offensively challenged at times, the Pacers defense rarely allowed them to get easy and open looks at the basket. Also, on offense, the Pacers had 27 assists. And they didn't come just because a couple of players had hot hands. They came because there was a conscious effort to look for and find the open man. That's nice to see at any level of basketball.
4) I loved that Pacers coach Frank Vogel got a technical on what was a terrible foul call against George Hill, when Hill was actually shoved into another Bulls player by Joakim Noah. Vogel's technical just added to the energy and showed his team, that he too, was into this game.
The Downs
There were not many downsides in this game. But as well as Lance Stephenson played, his technical foul was deserved and a bad one. After making a shot against Mike Dunleavy, and feeling as though he was fouled, he went and stood over Dunleavy in a taunting manner. Stephenson's energy is a big part of the Pacers success, but he clearly stepped over the line on that one.
Next Up
The Pacers turnaround and play at Memphis in an 8 p.m. game Saturday night. The Grizzlies had some injury issues earlier this season, but have played better as of late and have played themselves into the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race with a 40-28 record. The Grizzlies did play Friday night, losing at Miami 91-86. The Grizzlies are led by Indiana natives Zach Randolph at 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds and point guard Mike Conley at 17 points and six assists per game. Memphis also has center Marc Gasol at 13.8 points and 6.7 rebounds, Courtney Lee at 12.1 points and Tony Allen at 10 points per game. The Grizzlies allow opponents to shoot just under 45 percent from the floor and allow 94 points per game.

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