I was too depressed after the Pacers lost to the Charlotte Bobcats yesterday to write a recap. The same Bobcats that had lost 23 games in a row dating back to last season. The Pacers were sloppy with their passes, took their opponents lightly, missed a zillion free throws, and just got outworked all night. That said, the Pacers actually still had a chance to win the game, but an 18-foot DJ Augustin jumper from the baseline clanked off the rim as time expired, denying him the chance of playing hero against his former team.
The Pacers regrouped and played their first home game tonight against the Sacramento Kings. Two overtimes later, they escaped with hard fought 106-98 victory. Paul George filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks. David West had 18 and 18. George Hill had 18, 8 and 5, while Roy Hibbert finished with 12, 10 and 6 blocks.
It wasn’t pretty, but 3 games into this new season the Pacers are 2-1, even though all three of their opponents are projected non-playoff teams, teams they ought to have dominated instead of playing down to the wire. So yes, there are concerns, but the season is still young, and the Pacers appear to be working out some chemistry issues still.
- Roy Hibbert has been lackluster so far this season. His numbers have been OK, but they are not representative of the type of games he has been having. His teammates have been trying to feed him the ball but he’s not securing the right position down in the low post. He still hasn’t figured out how to receive the entry pass safely and when he gets fronted he appears completely lost. Even when he has gotten the ball in position his slowfootedness has led to quicker players stripping the ball away from him. On defense, he’s still bringing his hands down on block attempts instead of going straight up and falling for pump fakes from players a foot shorter than him, leading to unnecessary foul trouble. Those are things he still needs to work on.
- Free throw shooting against the Bobcats was atrocious. 16 of 27 against the worst team in the league is practically asking them to beat you. 24 of 27 against the Kings was much more like it. Every player on this team should be capable of shooting at least 75% from the line every night.
- Lance Stephenson has been a pleasant surprise this season. I’ve been a vocal critic of him since he was drafted by the Pacers but he is showing that he might finally be ready. He had 15, 6 and 4 against the Bobcats (top scoring honors with Hansbrough) and 10 points against the Kings. Most notably, he played 32 minutes in the Kings game, a sign that Frank Vogel has a lot of confidence in him.
- Tyer Hansbrough looks rejuvenated this season. He’ll always he awkward and unpretty but he has played with more confidence. He still has trouble finishing at the rim but he is a key spark off the bench and a foul-drawing machine.
- The newcomers have struggled. Gerald Green had his first decent game against the Kings with 17 points on 6-9 shooting, but he has struggled defensively. Ian Mahinmi, after a solid preseason, has struggled offensively, while DJ Augustin has struggled at both ends. Augstin, in particular, must be feeling the pressure as Darren Collison, the man he replaced, is getting off to a strong start in Dallas.
- David West has struggled with his shot a little since his monster game 1, but he remains the Pacers’ most reliable offensive player.
- The team is still missing Danny Granger’s offense. We complain about him when he plays, but without him the Pacers are simply not the same.
- I’ve started to accept the fact that the Pacers will always be a grind ‘em out kind of team. They will rarely blow other teams out but could get some tight wins against top teams.
Update in former Pacers:
- Brandon Rush is out for the season with a torn ACL
- Darren Collison is killing it as the starter for the Mavs. He’s averaging more than 17 points and 7 assists a game while shooting around 60% from the field.
- Dahntay Jones is not getting much burn in Dallas.
- Mavs also signed for Pacer Troy Murphy.
- Lou Amundson still hasn’t played a game for the Wolves.
- Leandro Barbosa has cooled off considerably after his stellar opener against the Heat. His defensive weaknesses might have something to do with it.
The Pacers next head to San Antonio to face the Spurs on Monday. It will be a serious test.