Count me as one of the surprised.
Perhaps sensing that the world is about to end, the Indiana Pacers played one of their best games of the season by thumping the Utah Jazz 104-84 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last night. The game wasn't even as close as the score suggests, as the Pacers had a 22-point lead at the half and wasn't threatened for the remainder of the game.
Does this really mean the Pacers have turned the corner? After all, they are now 14-12 after starting the season 3-6.
Paul George has continued to show that he is a prime candidate for most improved this year, putting up an effortless 20 points to go with 11 rebounds and 4 blocks. He shot 9-13, by the way. Gerald Green might have been game-high scorer with a season high 21 points, but most of those points came in garbarge garbage time — including that sick dunk he threw down with the game all but over.
George Hill had another good shooting night with 20 points on 8-13 shooting, to go with 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
David West struggled with his shot again, which is unlike him, but 13 points on 5-12 shooting isn't really that bad on a blowout night.
Roy Hibbert had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists on 5-10 shooting, which is nearly about as much as you can expect from him these days, as long as he continues to defend and block shots (he had 2 blocks last night).
DJ Augustin finally got some minutes again in garbage time and he played well, scoring 7 points on 3-4 shooting in 12 minutes. Perhaps it's time he started challenging Ben Hansbrough for the backup PG spot again?
RIght now, the Pacers don't look too bad. They have their young athletic scorer Paul George who can do everything on the floor. They've got their rock, David West, who can stabilize or rescue the team with timely baskets and great passes. George and West have become the consistent dynamic duo the team has sorely needed.
George Hill is proving to be an interesting point guard, unconventional in the sense that he's more of a scorer than a passer, but perhaps he's the right fit for this Pacers offense — and besides, he has been deadly in the clutch. Roy Hibbert remains the defensive anchor, and if he can ever find his scoring touch in the post again, the sky's the limit.
Unfortunately, the bench remains inconsistent and can go from good one night to dreadful the next. On paper, they shouldn't be that bad. Mahinmi is an athletic big who plays defense and is a better scorer than he gets credit for, while Gerald Green can provide highlight reels and three-pointers. Tyler Hansbrough is their workhorse scrapper who can occasionally get hot against the right teams, and Sam Young is a strong defender on the wing. Oh, and DJ Augustin is not supposed to suck. If this second unit can someone come together, the Pacers won't have to rely on their starters so much and the team will be in better shape at the end of the season.
Perhaps when Danny Granger returns and shifts Lance Stephenson to the second unit he'll be the X factor that can steer the bench ship in the right direction. I only worry that moving Paul George back to SG will hamper his game.
Next up, the Cavs in Cleveland, provided we're all still here by then. The man in the black mask, Kyrie Irving, will be looking to get a bounceback game against the Pacers after struggling the last time they met, a 96-81 victory for the Pacers in Indiana on Dec. 12. It will be another one of those yardstick games for the Pacers.