Sometimes a trend just starts to develop. It can be good or it can be bad but trends sometime occur for reasons that outside of our control & other times we can influence the trend.
To start the season & for the first 20+ games the trend was that we were more than just a good team. We were really an elite level team but a team that was probably overachieving.
Thus trend two began where we not only played poorly on most nights but we could not even beat teams that had winning records or .500% records for awhile thus causing us to be a middling team that definitely overachieved at the beginning of the year.
But quietly and without much fanfare the trend since the last time that we played the Heat in Miami and lost at the buzzer is that the team is beginning to trend back up. Not to elite levels like they were early in the season but to one of the better teams in the NBA again and slowly but surely a couple of players who really truly were playing awful basketball have begun to put together a string of decent games in one of their cases and now two really good games in the others case.
Were not going to hide it because there weren’t many of us who weren’t griping about them so we will just say that the two players were Roy Hibbert & Darren Collison.
Roy has steadily been working his way out of his hole and has put together a string a decent games and a few really good games. Collison though has really struggled till the Milwaukee game where he finally got his groove back and tonight were he was everything we ever wanted him to be (other than a pure point guard because God love him he just does not have the court awareness he needs for that) but this is the Collison we were getting early in the season when as a team we were kicking it.
Yes I know we can’t get to excited but I will take no excuses from anyone about the Heat tonight being tired.
Yes I know they played yesterday, but guess what this was our 4th game in 5 days as well. Remember we just had Sunday off after playing 3 in a row.
That Phoenix loss really kind of stings right now because a bounce here or a stop there and we would have had a 4 game winning streak, as it stands now we will have to suffer with being 3-1.
I can’t even begin to tell you how big these two wins were for us on so many levels. First and foremost from a practical standpoint these last two wins have kept us % points ahead of Atlanta and this is huge because ending in the 5th seed means home court vs. the 76ers right now as opposed to being the road team vs. the Orlando Magic.
Second of all beating the Heat was just a huge psychological barrier to overcome for our players and you could hear it in their voices and in their statements after the game. They were talking about how when they play up to their potential they can beat anybody. Overconfidence? Maybe but I think we need a little swagger as well.
Thirdly I am just of the opinion that winning begets winning, just like losing begets losing. Sometimes you get on a winning streak and stick on it and you don’t know why same for losing streaks. Well were winning and if we can take care of some more of these home games then we might actually be able to end the season on a high note and not back into the playoffs like we feared. Obviously we have the dreaded Texas two step coming up but as long as we can take care of the Nets and Wizards prior to going down south we should be ok even if we can’t take either of those games (which winning one or both is not out of the question).
Lastly we won in front of a sell out crowd or at least a near sell out. The Heat games are really odd because you know a lot of people are there to see LeBron or Wade or just the spectacle (nobody comes to see Bosh) but there are really very few die hard Heat fans there (or more to the point hard core bandwagon fans). Generally the crowds that are there are very pro Pacer and tonight was not different. I would say that at the end when the game was out of reach and the fans were giving the team a standing ovation that at least 75% of the field house was clearly giving the Pacers a standing ovation.
Oddly enough though the most amusing fan of the night was sitting right next to me. Due to circumstances my family was not able to attend the game so Vnzla81 got the call to come in off of the bench and go to the game.
This was special for a couple of reasons.
1. He’s really a great guy. I wish more of you guys could meet him in real life because you wouldn’t want to strangle him like you do on the forum.
2. Danny Granger led everybody in scoring, played great defense, rebounded and just generally had an outstanding game and he had to sit there next to me and groove on it. The sweetest part of this was me getting to tell him that not only did Danny lead this game in scoring but he also more than quadrupled Monta Ellis scoring tonight. He even had to choke out a few compliments for Collison & West.
Some observations from the game. Frank was losing his mind tonight on the refs. He was doing everything in his power to not get his second “T” and be ejected again but honest to God he one time had to turn away from the refs and his face was beet red & he brought his arms out from the side to under his arm pits quickly to the point that he looked like a chicken preparing to cluck. I refer to this Frank as Psycho V.
Lance Stephenson almost got a “T” from the bench in the 3rd quarter when the refs. called Roy for that offensive foul. Fortunately the one ref who was screwing us most of the night #59 Gary Zielinski just told him to sit down. Had that been Crawford I’m sure Lance would have been invited to go to the showers early.
As bad as Zielinski was I have a feeling that Haywood was wearing his # 3 flojo under his uniform. It did seem tonight like he was giving us the benefit of the doubt calls that he normally doesn’t give us.
Anyway this was just a great solid win in front of a large crowd. Will it translate into more fans in the stands? I don’t know but apparently Bob Kravitz is going to put out an article today chastising the locals for not supporting the club more. Maybe this win with all of the other semi pro ball and H.S. ball being about over with will give us a few more casuals.
On a slightly more somber note they finally announced Jeff to the crowd tonight and did a tribute video to him, which was really fun to watch btw because they showed his last dunk at M.S.A. (he scored the last basket there) and they showed him doing dunks as a rookie. I am just very grateful that the crowd was very large and gave Jeff the standing ovation he deserved.
I hope that the Pacers do something else for him and would like him to speak to the crowd but it sounds like he is going in for surgery and I don’t know if I would want him to speak at the last home game as that will be filled with Bulls fans making the pilgrimage down here. I would not want him booed.
Let’s grade the players tonight.
Danny Granger: A+ Yes he could have shot a little better from the field but he set the tone early on and he had almost the perfect combination of picking his shots and passing. Not to mention hitting the boards and rock solid defense all night. Simply put in a game filled with all-stars (not him) he was the best player on the floor for either team. Now don’t go crazy and say that I’m saying he is better than Wade or James, I’m just saying tonight he had a better game and I for one am glad that Vnzla81 was there to see it.
David West: A He hit the boards hard tonight and pretty much kept Bosh off of the glass. Chris made it by him a few times for dunks but we all know that David can’t rotate laterally. However the most impressive thing for me about David that I take away from today had nothing to do with the game. Go watch Jeff Fosters retirement video and see what he say’s about David West. If that doesn’t justify his salary I don’t know what does.
Roy Hibbert: A The human highlight reel. Ok that title is taken but he sure put some nice highlights up tonight at the expense of LeBron James. One thing in both the Bucks game and the Heat game is that Roy is just a giant compared to their big men. In all honesty once again our starting shooting guard is as tall as both the Bucks and Heats centers and this really was huge in both nights for rebounding and just putting the ball in the hole. We got a lot of shots blocked but we never stopped going back over and over and eventually the refs had no choice but to give us the foul. Roy got to the line 6 times tonight, however he only converted on 3. So if he had any one thing you wanted to criticize it would be that. But other than that? He had a great game.
Paul George: A Yes we all loved that long shot. Some are saying it was half court I’m saying it looked further back than that but I’ll have to wait and see it again on replay. He was the victim tonight of the most egregious of fouls when he clearly cleanly blocked Dwayne Wade on a shot and they called him for a foul. He touched nothing but the ball. Wade as much as I like him gets bailed out more than any player since Michael Jordan and frankly it gets tiresome seeing him just make trip after trip to the line when he doesn’t deserve it nor need it. Anyway Paul hit two big three’s and helped the team control the glass, which when we control the glass more often than not we will win.
Darren Collison: A+ While Danny was the best player Darren was the most valuable player on our club tonight. He set the tone and he played at a pace in which the Heat guards just could not keep up with. Vnzla81 pointed out that he would have thought that the Heat would have ran Wade at the point and bring in more three point shooters but we both concluded that they were probably afraid that they would not be able to keep up or contain Darren. I am very happy for him because talk about a player being the whipping mule for a long time. He still can’t find the open man soon enough and he very seldom makes a good pass but when he is tuned in on both sides of the floor he certainly is a lot better than the player we have been seeing for almost 2 months now. His steal off of the inbounds after the Roy dunk happened so fast that I didn’t even see it as I had just looked down at my phone and when I looked up the score had changed and the Heat still had the ball out of bounds.
Leandro Barbosa: A Provided microwave type energy and scoring off of the bench tonight and his contributions were as large as anybody else’s on our teams. My God we’ve needed a player who can come in and hit shot after shot it seems like forever. But not to be overlooked tonight was that he was playing very sneaky defense and even at one time forced LeBron into passing off instead of a drive like he wanted. I really look forward to the time that both he and Hill are on fire together again like they were vs. the Clippers.
Tyler Hansbrough: B- If your not hitting your shot then attempt to get to the line. I would say going 8 times in 17 min. is a good effort on that front, ok that’s a lie, that is an excellent effort on that front. He also played a solid defensive game but once again he befuddles me with his lack of rebounding. Not sure what happens there but this drives me up a wall. But hard to knock a guy who is playing with both a broken nose and a fractured orbital socket.
Lou Amundson: C As many fouls as he had points, assists and rebounds combined. Not his best outing however it is hard for me to ever be too critical of Lou because I just like that fact that he just goes all out every min. he is on the floor. I think we have Lou to thank for the new psychotic Frank Vogel when it comes to officials though. Take that as either good or bad.
George Hill: C- Not really sure how this guy has such swings in his game either but man did he struggle tonight and not just from the field. Our half court sets when he was running the point were just atrocious and left us with rushed long distance jumpers on almost every shot. Now in the full court runs between him, Dahntay and Barbosa they run the fast break than almost any trio we have had in a long time as they understand spacing and the appropriate time to pass. But man that offense can bog down with him on point on occasion. Thank God we didn’t need him to score tonight either because that wasn’t going to happen. Good solid defense though, as always so that saves him from a lower grade.
Dahntay Jones: C He also was a victim of the protect the star at any cost foul system we have in the NBA. His flagrant foul was beyond bogus. In fact it was down right egregious and I have a feeling that call may be rescinded by the NBA. He didn’t get much time tonight but what I really like about him is that just like Lou there are going to be nights when he gets lots of min. and other nights where he will get very few but he will give you the same level of play and commitment either way.
Overall I just can’t say how much the bench has improved with the addition of Barbosa. No offense to A.J. or Lance but this guy is just better than they are overall and certainly brings what we need right now to the table.
This was a great win, the team just needs to take tomorrow off and prepare for the Nets on Wednesday.
Also for no reason here is some Eric Clapton (well cream with Eric Clapton) for BillS