Phew. That was close. In another grind-out game, the Pacers put away the Wizards 89-85 in just their second home game of the season, snapping a 3-game losing streak to improve to 3-4 for the season.
The Pacers looked loke they were ready to lose another one for the majority of the game, constantly playing catchup from behind as former Pacer AJ Price dictated the Wizards offence. He finished with a career high 14 assists to go with 12 points and 0 turnovers. And you wonder why the Pacers let him go for DJ Augustin, who continues to struggle with just 3 points and 2 assists in 14 minutes.
At the end of the first and second quarters the Pacers managed to hit last second shots to be up by 1 and tied, respectively — but otherwise the Wizards were the better team in the first half. The Pacers didn’t really turn it on until the final quarter, led by Tyler Hansbrough’s crazy antics and throwing his body around all over the place. Hansbrough finished with only 6 points and 6 rebounds while shooting a dismal 4-12 from the line, but his energy was the reason the Pacers were able to make a comeback in the end.
Paul George had a solid game with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, including the clinching free throws. And don’t understate the importance of those free throws — the Pacers were up by 7 when the Wizards hit a quick 3 and then a 2, cutting the lead down to just 2. If George handn’t hit both the Wizards would have had a chance to tie or win at the buzzer.
Lance Stephenson started in the place of Sam Young and played solidly at shooting guard with 12 points on 5-7 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Paul George got shifted to the small forward position, and I am hoping tonight’s performance is an indication that he is more suited to that role in the offense.
David West struggled with his shot (4-16) and finished with 11 points and just 4 rebounds, but he was responsible for some key baskets, including the one that put the Pacers up by 7 with less than 2 minutes to go. Roy Hibbert was again just awful (7 and 12 on 3-15 shooting, though he did have 8 offensive rebounds); slow footed and wasting too much time every time he was fed the ball in the post. Considering he was often being guarded by the undersized Omeka Okafor, the performance was embarrassing. Time to step it up, Roy.
So in the end, an ugly win against a winless team, but it should help boost a little bit of confidence. I like the new starting lineup of Hill, Stephenson, George, West and Hibbert. The next game is at home again on Tuesday against the Raptors, the team the Pacers edged in the opening game of the season and will be hungry for revenge.