"You don't worry about me shooting, to be honest with you," Tyler Hansbrough said with a chuckle. "I'm going to get my shots up."
One locker over, Danny Granger intervened, shaking his head vigorously side-to-side. "No, no, no...don't worry that. Don't worry about Tyler getting his shots up."
The light-hearted banter was the fruit of a big win for the Indiana Pacers despite an off night at the offensive end. While Hansbrough passed up a few shots he normally takes, he still made his presence felt in the win.
Defense, of all things, put the Pacers in position to secure a playoff spot. With five games to play, their magic number is now four games meaning any combination of Pacers wins and Charlotte losses equaling four will put the Pacers back in the playoffs after four post-seasons on the outside.
That defense was great from start to finish, literally. On a very active first possession of the game for the Bucks, ended in a shot-clock violation. Then after an up and down game left the Bucks with the ball and a chance to win at the buzzer, the Pacers forced the Bucks to rely on Drew Gooden 25 feet from the hoop. The shot was contested and the resulting clank sealed the win and may in turn seal the Pacers spot in the playoffs.
"I'm very proud of our defensive effort," Frank Vogel said following the game. "It was a great effort by our guys. We have a confident bunch defensively. They know when it's on the line they can get stops and they proved it tonight."
Among the defensive improvements, Hansbrough's effort stood out. He's made a stir this season at the offensive end, but late rotations from the weakside defense in aid of his teammates, most notably Roy Hibbert have been a sore spot for the coaching staff. But tonight his play earned a special mention by Vogel following the game.
Against Milwaukee, Hansbrough helped guard the yard and keep the lane clogged. So while Hansbrough admitted he was a little out of his comfort zone on offense, passing up some shots he normally takes, he was still able to make an impact at the defensive end. Vogel was asked to elaborate on where Hansbrough's improvement showed up.
"Weakside,'" Vogel stated simply. "We pointed out to him in film session. You know, he's a passionate player, an energetic player he wants to keep his man off the glass. So too frequently in the last few games, he's been more worried about keeping his man off the glass than stepping up and protecting the paint. He was just sensational in his help defense, early on and really the whole game. He really grew leaps and bounds in one game."
Hansbrough was happy to come through last night but didn't sound satisfied.
"I'm trying to get my rotations down," Hansbrough said. "If a guy comes out and Roy hasn't gotten back to his man then I try to help him out. It's something that I notice on the tape and have to learn."
Hansbrough continues to develop all facets of his game, and while his defense has lagged behind his offense, maybe it is starting to catch up. After all, it wasn't long ago that his mid-range jumper was sketchy, but now he's questioned when he doesn't shoot it as much.
Who knows? Before long maybe we won't have to worry about Hansbrough providing solid help-side to take a charge or create a turnover just like Granger assures us now that we don't need to worry about the forward getting his shots.