I kept wondering how long it would be before the Pacers shot better than 40% from the field in a game. Well, they did it tonight against one of the worst teams in the league, the New Jersey Nets, breaking not only 40% but 50%.
The Pacers got out to a quick start in Newark, stretched the lead a couple of times, before eventually putting the Nets away quite comfortably with a 108-94 win. They shot 52.6% from the field, a season high, but what did it for them was their accurate 3-point shooting (13-21), including a 5-5 performance from Paul George, who top scored with 21.
Here are some of my observations from the game:
1. George Hill is finding his groove — love what GH has been doing these last few games. The confidence in his shot is back and he is drilling them. He only had 8 points and 2 assists in 20 minutes but he played a steady, confident game, hitting the big shots when the team needed them. A lot of people were writing him off after a poor pre-season and first couple of games, but I am beginning to believe that this will turn out to be a fantastic pick up for the Pacers in the long run.
2. Granger is still struggling — he can’t shoot like this forever, but it’s getting painful watching Granger shoot this poorly (4-14) every night thus far. Even on a night when his teammates were hitting their shots, Granger was still clanking them. Thank goodness he was 3-7 from the outside. I guess as long as the Pacers win and Granger keeps hitting them when they really count (as he has been), it’s not going to be too hard to accept.
3. Amundson is better than advertised — Lou (who reportedly looks like a porn star), is more productive than most thought he would be (7 points, 6 boards). He’s rebounding and finishing at the rim, not a bad replacement for the injured Jeff Foster. He’s not quite the rebounder Jeff is, but he hustles and is more athletic and a better finisher at this stage of their respective careers. Not a bad pick-up considering all the Pacers gave up was Brandon Rush (whom I hope will have a career revival in Golden State).
4. Pacers still have a lot of work to do — even though the Pacers won today, they did so because they were the more talented team and they managed to hit their shots. They were lucky. In terms of hustle and effort, the Nets had them beat tonight. The Pacers gave up 20 offensive boards and a bunch of 50-50 balls, and that’s just not going to cut it against better teams. The team’s offense still stinks too — almost every possession came down to the final seconds on the shot clock, and it ends up being one-on-one play far too often.
5. The road’s about to get tougher from here — the Pacers are 4-1, though all 5 games have been against teams that won’t make the playoffs. So while it’s nice, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Chances are, the Pacers are going to struggle to hit 0.500 soon as they have a bunch of road games coming up, including against the likes of the Heat, the Celtics and the 76ers. To be honest, with the way they are playing now, if they are at 0.500 or better by the end of January I’ll be laughing.