The strength of our team is the fact that we are a team. On any given night any two players can lead our team in scoring and we are a nightmare to defend because we donít have anyone in the starting five who is a designated anything. All five players can defend and all five players can score on any given night.
Tonight our point guard had it going on at the offensive end of the floor so he led the team in scoring. However right after him was a balanced attack that both of our wings and our center all gave you double figure production. The one starter who didnít get to double figures routinely is one of our better scorers.
Our bench was not huge for us but it was fairly effective, however it did have some sloppy plays that led to Utah making a pretty big come back (although the starters didnít fair much better during that time).
To be 17 Ė 7 at this point in the season is really a dream come true. I never ever expected the team to be this good this quick and to do it while mostly on the road is even more impressive.
Itís funny now when we play Western Conference teams that have winning records I no longer quake in my shoes as I have over past few years. The Jazz routinely have been a tough team for us to play and at one point in the 4th quarter I thought we might be looking at another tough loss again. But this isnít the same Pacers team as in years past.
Or better yet let me let Roy Hibbert make his statement about how the game might have gone in the past, per an interview with Mike Wells.
Hibbert: "Last season before the coaching change, we probably would have lost that game."
Two things you can take away from that statement. One is that this team really has improved and improved to the point that there is no team in the NBA that I donít think we at least have a decent chance of beating (obviously Miami is a team that I fear but they are not impossible to beat). Two, Roy really thinks very highly of Frank Vogel. Notice how I didnít take that wide open chance to make an offhanded comment about the former coach? Some of you should be proud of me.
But in all seriousness heís right and here is why. We are mentally tougher. Our talent level is better, sure that canít be denied. But there is a real collective group feeling that nobody can beat us. Think about George Hill getting all indignant when one of our members (name escapes me at the moment) asked him if they were going to steal the game in L.A. They didnít go into that game thinking they were going to steal anything, they believed they were going to win it, which they did.
I think this starts with coaching and a coaching staff that believes in them and has them believing in each other. This is why every single day I am on here trying to convince some of you guys who are trying to make a different trade everyday that this collective group of players is already special and until something changes I have no interest in disrupting what we have going.
Now one last thing before we get to the odd thoughts. Tonightís attendance was pretty bad however it is what I expected. The balcony looked to be pretty crowded however if Iím not mistaken arenít they selling tickets there for $6.00 per seat? I mean in all honesty for that kind of money the team is probably losing money on the seat but I guess itís better than letting them go empty.
Here is the truth though, this isnít new and it didnít start under the previous coach. Tuesday night games or worse yet Wednesday night game have always been sparsely attended unless a marquee team or player is in town. If the Lakers (or this season probably the Clipper) or the Heat or the Bulls were in town then the attendance would be near capacity, but Tuesday night in the early part of February in Indiana and the team is the Utah Jazz without any stars on their roster either. Well this is the attendance you are going to get. Itís not that the city still hates the club or nobody knows the team, I think itís getting there. Slowly but surely people are starting to either understand or hear about the team. Itís sadly the way it is here and has always been.
Ok now to the game.
Letís do tonight in bullet point fashion.
ē I spent the first half of the game thinking to myself, didnít you use to be Devin Harris a young and up and coming point guard? This was all while Darren Collison was beating him like a rented mule. Sometimes when Darren has it going on and is being defended by a player who, well to be polite Iíll say, isnít giving the best effort on defense you have to let him do his thing. I know we all prefer point guards who point but tonight you could not argue with the results. The fact he does all of this without turning over the ball at all is really remarkable. Great game by our point guard and that is something we have been able to say quite a bit this season.
ē The rest of the first half and the entire third quarter I spent thinking to myself, didnít you use to be Danny Granger who only last week scored 36 points? In the middle of the third you probably could have confused me with Vnzla81 because I was ready to ship Danny out for about anybody with a pulse. Because I was convinced at that point in time Danny didnít have one. Then came that 4th quarter. He was everywhere during that time. Not only did he find his shot but his defense went from warp speed to plaid. However the greatest thing he did all night long will not show up in a box score. Late in the 4th he drove the lane and drew three defenders to him; instead of forcing up the contested layup he kicks the ball to Collison who quickly kicks the ball to George who hits the mostly uncontested three point shot. However that play was set up by Danny drawing the defense and getting the ball to the open man. Just beautiful basketball.
ē Paul George is getting there. That dunk and the national attention he got from it (& probably the butt chewing he got from David West for not dunking the ball) has seemed to kick Paul into the next level of play and he now is aggressively looking for his shot. However the beauty of Paul is that he does a lot of this by getting his shots off of defense that he provides. The sky is the limit for this young man and it will be a real pleasure for Pacer fans to watch him grow. However one little thing that he has got to work on is he has got to stop fouling players in the act of shooting. His first foul of the game was another touch foul that got the and 1.
ē Roy Hibbert has become so good that you almost forget how good he is until he goes to the bench. Need two points? Get it to Roy. Need a big block? Here comes Roy. Need a tough interior rebound to secure the game? There is Roy as well. That last part is the one thing that I think surprises me more than any other thing. I never expected Roy to rebound the way he does. I had a feeling he would be a decent scorer, although he has become more of a weapon than I ever thought he would and I even suspected he would be a decent shot blocker. But rebounding was something I was ready to say that we would always need to get him help. He doesnít get weak chase the ball into the corner rebounds either. He is in there battling each and every play. Roy will be an all-star and he really deserves it.
ē David West had a completely unspectacular game although he wasnít what I would say was bad. But like I said above that is why our team is so special, we didnít need his offense tonight. But letís give him credit for a play that was like Grangers above in that it wonít appear in any statistics. The game sealing shot by Granger was made possible because David West ran a pick and roll with Darren Collison then he slipped the pick and instead of popping out for a shot he ran over and set another pick on Grangers man freeing him up for a wide open 15 foot shot that Danny nailed. But he wouldnít have been open if West didnít pick his man into the next parking lot. Of course Frank Vogel gets credit for drawing up that play as well.
ē I swear poor Tyler gets slapped in the head more than anyone on the team. I almost want the guy to wear a Hibbert style mask out of fear of the head shots he takes. I think his physical style of play is kind of working against him at the moment with the refs. because the guy is getting fouled like crazy and very rarely gets the call anymore. He had what I like to call a game tonight, not great not bad. Once again though this speaks to our overall team strength as remember at the beginning of the season that a lot of our offense was David West & Tyler Hansbrough? He was very active and I think he did a little better at defending Millsap than West did. I hope he has a big game in Atlanta because we are going to need it.
ē Lou Amundson was Lou tonight. He didnít provide much in the way of statistics but he gave a few min. of rest to Roy and didnít blow the lead when he was in there. Also Iíll take this time to tell everyone now, this Enes Kanter of Utah is going to be an absolute monster of a player if he continues to develop. This guy is going to be like Demarcus Cousins in that he doesnít have any hops but this guy is wide as a Mack truck and knows how to use his body. This is not Mehmet Okur; this is a physical player who our guys could not move.
ē Lance Stephenson, like Paul George, is getting there. Heís obviously taking longer than Paul but he actually contributed solid valuable production to this game. His defense has improved 100 fold over what it was last year and he even attempted a perimeter shot tonight. I wonder in 2-3 years where he will be at in his development. In fact that should scare the league a little bit really. We are this good now and both Paul & Lance have almost not even scratched the surface of what they could be as players. I donít know if both, either or neither of them will develop to their true potential but like Paul the sky is the limit if he keeps working. I know a lot of people donít like him because he wears his heart on his sleeves and that burnt a lot of Artest fans. But in all honesty this is a big kid we are dealing with here. I know to a lot of people Ron was the same way but Iím hoping Lance doesnít have the same mental issues.
ē Dahntay Jones was like Lou, he played. He had a nice drive with a foul but that was about it. His shot was off tonight, however he didnít let up on defense so at least we can always count on him for that. He has been great for over a month now so if he has one game where he is a little off we can agree to let it go.
ē A.J. Price had a couple of shots that he had to take cause the clock was expiring however there was one instance he let a shot fly from about the hash mark that there was still 4 or 5 seconds left on the clock. I donít know what was up with him when Utah put on the pressure defense; Iíve never seen him make bad plays like that before when teams move up on him. Iím really hoping this is rust but sadly I wonder if this isnít who he is as a player now. If any one player was damaged by the previous coaching staff it was probably him.
Ok a minor announcement, not that anybody really cares, but there will probably not be an odd thoughts after the Atlanta game due to some work related issues I will have to attend to instead. If I do get one up it will be very abbreviated, yes I know I need to do that anyway.
Guys I would love to come on here and complain more. In fact I feel a lot like a Pollyanna with my constant gushing over the team. But after more than a decade of either disliking how we played or some of our players or really disliking our coach I am at total peace with this current roster and coaching staff. It makes these Odd Thoughts kind of redundant and probably boring to read. However there is really nothing I feel like complaining about in general. They are far exceeding my expectations.
One last thing before I go, I realized the other day that I have been writing these things for 18 years. Youíd think in all of that time I would have improved or learned how to spell or use proper grammar but somehow that has always escaped me. I am not a professional writer (obviously) and I am not a mathematician or analyst. I am nothing more than a lifelong fan of the Indiana Pacers who talks too much and in the past complained too much. Iíd like to thank each of you guys who have given me support and interacted with me over the years. When Hicks approached me a couple of years ago about changing over to more of a blog format I really was hesitant because well one I was not familiar with blogging even though Iíve done this for so long but itís always been on a bulletin board format and second of all I was very much afraid of losing the interaction with other posters. To me that is why I do this, I am really only trying to have a conversation and the thought of typing all of this out and not getting any response didnít appeal to me. Eventually I agreed and tried it for a good period of time. I was able to keep the interactions going so that made me happy. Recently weíve had another small change and so Iíve now started posting them directly here again. *this was for those of you who were wondering why all of a sudden robohicks is no longer posting odd thoughts*.
Either way thanks to Hicks for letting me continue this over here and thanks to all of you who I have interacted with, itís really one of the great Joys of my life.
Ok enough sappy stuff, letís keep this Pacers train a rolling right over Atlanta.