The Indiana Pacers moved to 7-3 on the season and 4-0 at home, as they defeated the Atlanta hawks in convincing fashion, 96-84.
While there were many key elements to the victory, Pacers fans should be excited by the promising night by Danny Granger. Granger finished the night with 24 points which led all scorers. While his 24 points was a key element to the victory, his 56 percent field-goal percentage is what is most promising coming away from this victory.
Not only has Granger struggled to find his stroke this season, he is coming off a week that saw him miss a game in Philadelphia due to food poisoning. His effort tonight is his third game of the season where he scored more than 20 points.
The game tonight was a tight contest through the first half. Indiana was able to build a convincing lead in the first quarter, but Atlanta came roaring back as the first half ended. Indiana led 53-50 at the half, but trailed with under a minute to go.
The third quarter is where Granger and company took over. Indiana went on a huge third-quarter run and took control of the game. The Pacers scored 27 points to close out the third quarter, compared to only nine points by Atlanta.
The Hawks couldn't seem to find their rhythm all night. Their typical go-to guy, PF Josh Smith, was plagued by rough encounters and arguments with referees. Smith finished the game with 16 points and seven rebounds, and had a rough night at the foul line only making 2-of-5 shots.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta's other key scorer, also had a quiet evening. He shot 5-of-12 en route to a 15-point game.
Prior to this game, my opinion was that Indiana would have to make Atlanta miss their shots while making more of their own shots. They did just that, as Atalanta shot only 37 percent on the night while Indiana shot over 45 percent.
Assisting Danny Granger in this victory was Roy Hibbert, who posted 12 points en route to yet another double-double on the season. He finished the game with 11 rebounds.
Along with Granger, another player taking on "breakout" status was Lance Stephenson. He scored a career-high 12 points, and shot 5-of-7 from the field. His season so far has been left up to comparisons between him and A.J. Price, with some calling for more minutes for Price due to lack of production from Stephenson. Tonight saw Stephenson take a step forward. He was more aggressive with the ball, and he made the shots he took.
Overall, Indiana played a well-executed game against a team that had been playing good basketball. Atlanta will look to rebound tomorrow night at home against the Charlotte Bobcats.
While the victory tonight is something to be proud of, it would have been a much better scenario had the clock run out at the end of the game. Instead, the Pacers' back-up center, Louis Amundson, decided it was a good idea to go to the rim with 3.5 seconds remaining in regulation up by more than 10. Joshua Collins felt disrespected and laid a hard foul on Amundson. Collins was ejected and Amundson was charged with a technical.
Sportsmanship is sportsmanship, and after the game Indiana played, running the clock out would have been the best thing to do. While I don't condone getting ejected for a foul like Collins did, I understand his frustration and I hope coach Frank Vogel has a stern conversation with his back-up center.
Indiana looks to gain momentum as they head back out on the road yet again and head to Toronto for a game with the Raptors Friday evening. The Pacers defeated the Raptors in Toronto earlier in the month 90-85, and they will look to duplicate that win.