Indiana Pacers: Taking Stock Against the Toronto Raptors

With the return of Danny Granger, Troy Murphy and Tyler Hansbrough back into the Indiana Pacers lineup, I figured now would great time for a little in-depth analysis of how the team is shaping up (taken from Monday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors):

First Quarter

12:00: The Pacers open the game with Earl Watson, Luther Head, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy and Roy Hibbert. With Hansbrough active, Indiana has its full complement of players – minus Jeff Foster – for the first time all season. Let’s see what they can do against a Raptors team currently sitting second in the Atlantic Division.

10:51: Hibbert immediately scores in the post against Andrea Bargnani. I understand Jim O’Brien‘s reluctance to play the big fella against teams that pick and pop with their big guys, but there’s no way Bargnani, or Chris Bosh for that matter, can stop Big Roy down low.

6: 51: Five minutes in and the Pacers have scored just five points. The offense looks stagnant. There’s no ball rotation, no penetration, and Granger’s floating aimlessly around the perimeter. Stagnant has become familiar.

5:50: Brandon Rush badly misses a three. You could tell that one was off before he even released the ball. I swear, sometimes Rush does what he’s supposed to do – like coming off a screen and quick releasing a three — only he does it with no real belief that he’ll be successful doing it. This has been going on for a year and a half now. Every time I see Jerryd Bayless pour in 20 points, which he’s doing with increasing frequency for the injury ravaged Blazers, I die a little bit more inside.

4:26: Murphy hits back-to-back three pointers. He is literally the only offense the Pacers have right now. Murph’s scored 12 of the team’s 14 points, and the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd is growing restless.

3:39: Granger gets Bosh isolated behind the arc, and instead of taking it to the hoop against the bigger, slower player, Danny pulled up and rammed a three off the back iron. Not the shot O’Brien, or any fan in attendance, wanted to see. The Pacers trail by five, 19-14.

1:45: O’Brien closes out the quarter with A.J. Price at the point,  Rush at the two, Mike Dunleavy at small forward, Hansbrough — making his first appearance in 7 games — at the power forward spot, and Solomon Jones at center. The backups play about as inspired as the starters, and Indiana’s behind 30-22 at the end of one.

Second Quarter

10:05: I think I’ve found where Rush’s missing confidence has gone. Price stole it. The rookie second round pick is not afraid of anything out there, taking it to the hoop against Toronto’s trees, and never shying away from an open shot. Of course, his swagger isn’t helping much right now, as the Pacers find themselves down 13.

9:44: It’s back to the bench for Hibbert. After playing all of five minutes in the first quarter, he’s most likely done until the second half after just two minutes in the 2nd. Get ready for a whole lotta Solomon Jones.

8:40: Antonio Davis, the starting forward on the 2000 NBA Finals team, is in attendance tonight. Just caught the following exchange with Stacey Paetz:

Paetz: Now, you played for both of these teams, who you rooting for tonight?

Davis: (without missing a beat) Oh, I’m always rooting for the Pacers.

Paetz: (makes weird squealing noise) Yes!

Davis: No doubt about that.

You gotta love AD

8:23: The Pacers have been outscored 15-2 to start the quarter. In an attempt to shake things up, O’Brien’s going small, pulling Rush and leaving both Watson and Price in the game.

8:09: Granger just tossed DeMar DeRozan to the ground for no real reason, and then yelled at the ref for calling a foul on him. What happened to the lovable, goofy Granger? The guy I’m watching tonight is selfish and frustrated. I guess that’s what losing does to you.

8:15: Oh, hey there! A ticked-off Granger just drilled an F-Bomb from downtown Indianapolis. In DeRozan’s face. That’s what I like to see.

2:00: Not much to report over last six minutes. Indiana fell behind by as much as 23 points, but they’ve mounted a mini comeback. Dunleavy just slid into the lane for a layup to cut the lead to 15, but for all intents and purposes, this has the look of yet another Pacers loss.

0:01 Holy crap. Antoine Wright just banked in a three-quarters quart shot as time expired to end the half with Toronto up 13. I’m not even mad…that was impressive.  I bet Larry Bird‘s mad though.

3rd Quarter

12:00: Solo Jones gets the second half start at center. We may not see Hibbert the rest of the way. Makes no freakin’ sense to me. And while we’re discussing playing time, where the heck is Dahntay Jones??? He’s yet to play a minute tonight, and has 19 minutes of court time in his last two contests. Again, makes no sense. On the bright side, they just showed a smiling and clapping Jones on the bench encouraging his teammates. At least one player is keeping a positive attitude despite all the turmoil. On a related note, T.J. Ford wasn’t even active for tonight’s game.

6:30: Every time I see Hansbrough, I can’t help but wonder how he’s ever going to be an effective NBA player. He’s too small, he’s not athletic enough, and his jumper is average at best. And then he makes a play like the one I just saw –a slashing reverse layoff that drew an “And One” — and I start believing all over again. The Pacers are in the middle of a 14-4 run by the way. Hey, this is pretty fun.

2:23: Price just entered the game and promptly air-balled a three. It wasn’t even close. Let’s see how his confidence responds to that.

0:05: Well, we found out how O’Brien’s confidence in Price is. He just called an isolation spread out for the rookie to end the third quarter. Price didn’t make the shot, but he got to the hoop with ease, exactly like J.O.B was counting on.

4th Quarter

8:09: Sloppy start to the quarter, but Indiana’s only trailing by two. Price hit a three and finger roll layup to keep the team in it. O’Brien just went back to his small ball lineup in hopes it’s as effective as it was earlier in the game.

7:39: Tie ballgame…maybe the coach is on to something here.

5:09: Drive by Granger, kicks to Watson in the corner…Boom Baby! Pacers lead by three.

2:48: Pacers still lead by three. Can they close this thing out? I’m torn.

1:13: Huge three by Price! And the Pacers lead is extended to four. The kid now has eight of his 16 points in the all-important fourth quarter. It won’t be long before Price is starting, you can mark that down.

0:00: A couple late free throws by Dunleavy seal the deal, and the Pacers have now won three games in the month of January. And the month’s not even half over yet! Could this be the turning point of the season? Could the return of Granger, Murphy and Hansbrough, along with the progression of Price be enough to mount a playoff run? For draft selections sake, I hope not, but still, it’s never a bad feeling when the blue-and-gold can steal a win.

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