Pacers Granger loses 1 chore
By Mike Wells
Indiana Pacers swingman Danny Granger spent the first few years of his career chasing the opposing team's best perimeter scorer.
Trying to defend stars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant affected Granger's offense. Or vice versa. Sometimes he struggled defensively if he focused too much on offense.
That hasn't been a concern this season.
Marquis Daniels is guarding the opponent's best perimeter player at the start of each game, which means Granger doesn't have to exert as much energy on both ends of the court.
"It definitely helps a lot," Granger said. "I don't get tired as much as I used to. It's a hard job chasing those guys around. I still end up defending them at some point in the game."
Granger's scoring has taken off since some of the defensive load has been lightened. He has scored at least 30 points three times in his nine appearances, including 34 on Tuesday against the Hawks, and he's averaging a career-high 24.3 points.
"I don't want to have Danny get totally worn out playing guys like that," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "Danny might be on them down the stretch. I think when you play guys like that, you have to alternate guys on them. Also, Danny is responsible for a lot of our scoring. I don't want to take his legs out of it."
Rookie Brandon Rush and point guard Jarrett Jack also take their shot at slowing opposing scorers. Granger, the Pacers' best perimeter defender the past couple of seasons, attempts to play the role of defensive stopper during spurts.
"They have to do it at a high level if you're going to have four people," O'Brien said.
More points, Murph
Forward Troy Murphy could end up averaging a career high in rebounds if he continues to attack the glass the way he has lately.
Murphy got his fifth double-double of the season Tuesday against Atlanta: 10 points and 19 rebounds. The 19 boards were three shy of his career high, which came during the 2002-03 season.
O'Brien, however, wants more scoring.
"We're trying to get a couple of more dimensions out of Murph," O'Brien said. "He's been rebounding like crazy, but we want to utilize his offensive skills. Passing more, his ability to go down low and ability to space the court."
Murphy is averaging 9.7 points on 42 percent shooting. He said he got too complacent on offense the past couple of seasons because he would mainly float around the 3-point line.
"I've fallen into the trap the last couple of years because we had an inside presence with Jermaine (O'Neal). A lot of times my position was to be out on the perimeter," Murphy said. "This season with him not being here, we run more of an open offense and it gives me an opportunity to get down (in the post), and I have to take advantage of it."
A defensive machine
Their season is just 10 games old, but the Pacers are showing signs of turning the corner defensively.
The Pacers are tied with Cleveland for third in the league in field goal defense at 42.3 percent. The only teams ahead of them are Boston and the Lakers, who played in the NBA Finals last season.
Teams shot 46 percent against the Pacers last season.
Magic at Pacers
7 p.m. Friday, Fox Sports Indiana