As a instructional aide in a classroom, I am all about the grades, and how kids are doing. Therefore, I want to look at the Indiana Pacers and what grade their performance deserved from yesterday. For a game that they had to win, I will give a passing grade. You look at how as a team they all played together, it’s important to see that this is a team effort. Paul George will get the headlines with his triple double, but George Hill came out firing in the first quarter and hit for 13 points. Lance Stephenson, who hardly played a playoff minute last season, came out and was a ball of energy throughout the game. He had the lowest total of the starters, but that’s nothing to worry about as he’s the last option on offense. He had a hand on the defensive end, and was all about pushing the ball in transition. Most of the day, we saw Good Lance, and that’s what needs to happen for the rest of the playoffs.
David West was a beast as always with his 13 points and 9 rebounds. He played about as well defensively on Josh Smith as he could. Smith settled for jumpers, and as a team I would be fine with that. He wasn’t hitting that much, so if he is hitting, then it’s a different story. But for the most part, Smith looks disinterested in the game, and wasn’t engaged at times. That’s partly to being defended so physically by West. How about the other big man in Roy Hibbert?
Hibbert came to play as well, who didn’t grab a board in the first half, but finishes with 8. He also added 16 points and 2 blocks. He was right there in the middle causing problems, and looked to be the more confident Hibbert that the Pacers will need. Off the bench, I give the gold start to Tyler Hansbrough, who was just active the whole time he was out there. He got a standing ovation for his performance, and deservedly so. He had 9 points and 5 rebounds, but his impact overall with his physical play made the game so much better. How about a gold star to Jeff Pendergraph, who didn’t have any playoff minutes last season, and brought the energy that this team needed.
Offensively, scoring 107 points is much higher than I predicted for the team. I figured it would be in the 90s or less as the team had struggled to score at times, and with the rust that this team was showing, I wasn’t sure where the offense was. But this was that type of game, the Pacers just flipped the switch, and knew that they better take care of business. Defensively, to hold the Hawks to 90 points was just what I felt like they needed to do. If the Pacers keep that up, this series will be over and done quickly. You’ll see that tenacious defense the Pacers have been known for. That defensive presence needs to be there each game. I believe it will be, and the Pacers will be so much better for it.
For a team that had lost five out of the last six to come out and win this game one so convincingly says a lot about the Indiana Pacers. I will say how worried I was that this team would fall down in the playoffs, even losing that first round. I know it’s one game, but this game really uplifted the spirits. It showed that the Pacers are in fact ready for the playoffs, and if they come out with this same effort Wednesday, it should be 2-0 heading to Atlanta. This Pacers team is better, and that is what better teams do. Time to show up and do what is expected.