There’s very few pretty things about the Indiana Pacers this season. Still, after a rough start, which included losing six of their first nine games, they are finding ways to win and put the season back on track. How? Great defense, possibly the best in the NBA right now, and someone like George Hill hitting a huge buzzer beating layup for a rare road win.
A rough start can be attributed to three things: A very tough schedule to begin with, which includes 12 road games through the first 18 outings; Danny Granger out to a long-term injury and Paul George not stepping up to the plate and taking over the duties of the Pacers’ best player.
Well, there are ways to make up for it, like they did against the Lakers, and like they’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks, winning four of their last six games. Uglyfying it up, and putting everything they have into defense. For this, they have the kind of personnel to make it work.
They kept the Los Angeles Lakers at 31.6% from the field and 21.4% from beyond the arc. They hit anyone trying to make their way into the paint, sending the Lakers to the line 43 times. Luckily, it was a terrible night for the Lakers from the free throw line, making only 23 of their shots, with Dwight Howard being especially awful, making only 3 of his 12 attempts from the line. Even while the Pacers kept on appearances, looking very bad offensively (36.7% from the field, 21.1% from beyond the arc, 17 turnovers), they weren’t the worst on the court.
For once, George Hill delivered Danny Granger may not be a point guard, but he’s the only player who can create shots for himself on the Pacers. When you lose that kind of element, all the potential in the world (Paul George) or having an impressive frontline can’t help. You need someone to create shots from himself and for others.
Hill, being the point guard, fits the bill, and he delivered throughout the game time and time again, especially in that last second layup, escaping both Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol while avoiding Dwight Howard’s block by making a high, high layup that sank with 0.1 left on the clock. He finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Since an awful 1-10 performance vs the Bucks two weeks ago Hill has turned a corner, like the Pacers, playing much more responsibly, making much better decisions with his shots and passing.
What do you call it when you go through a 1-23 shooting slump during the first half and still win the game? These are the 2012-2013 Pacers, at least until Granger return. A streaky team trying to electro-shock some life into their offense, figuring out defense in the only way. Not allowing teams to run against them. Something similar to the Philadelphia 76ers of last season. Making it a fight instead of a basketball match, hoping they’ll come up with their arm on top.
Paul George is still not what they want and need him to be. Not taking the easy shots, always making it harder for himself than it should be. The 37 points against the Hornets seems like a distant dream, despite it being only a week old. George gets into the game through his defense and rebounding. Maybe one day, he’ll figure it out offensively. Till then, it’s still going to be a scrappy battle for the Pacers each and every game.