Five Keys to Watch as the Indiana Pacers Make Playoff Push in Season's 2nd Half

Aaron Siegal-Eisman@@ASiegalEismanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

Five Keys to Watch as the Indiana Pacers Make Playoff Push in Season's 2nd Half

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    The Indiana Pacers currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference standings through the first half of the season.

    Even though they haven't had forward Danny Granger in the lineup due to a knee injury, the Pacers have still excelled because of the play from Paul George and David West. 

    The Pacers have one of the best defenses in the league, as they rank first in opponents points per game and opponents field goal percentage.

    Also, the Pacers rank first in the league with 46 rebounds per game.   

    Although the Pacers are playing really well so far, they shouldn't get complacent since the top of the conference standings are very close.

    Five games separate the seventh-place Milwaukee Bucks from the first-place Miami Heat.

    The Pacers need to continue the success for the rest of the year, if they want a high seed in the playoffs.   

The Sky Is the Limit for Paul George

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    Some might say that the Danny Granger injury has hurt this team, but it seems to be a blessing in disguise for Paul George.

    George has gone from 7.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in his first year to 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game just two seasons later.

    He has shown the country that he's a great three-point shooter, excellent finisher at the hoop and has helped elevate the rest of the team's play.

    He has had 12 double-doubles and seven games of 25 points or more.  

    The craziest thing is that he is only 22 years old and has a lot of room to grow.

    Hopefully this youngster can keep playing the way he has been for the rest of the season.

Keep It Up, David West

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    David West is finally starting to look like the player that all the Pacers fans knew he was. 

    West was averaging more than 17 points and seven rebounds per game from the 2005-2011 seasons with the New Orleans Hornets.

    Then, he was signed by the Pacers and averaged 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game through his first season. 

    This season, West is producing similar numbers to his Hornets days.

    He is averaging 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game through the first half of the season. 

    West has had 12 double-doubles and recorded his first career triple-double earlier this month against the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Also, he has been a very effective defensive player for head coach Frank Vogel.

    West can produce even better numbers, but has looked very solid so far.  

Consistency from Roy Hibbert

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    Roy Hibbert has done a very good job of providing solid defense against the NBA's top big men.

    He is averaging almost three blocks per game, and he is helping create missed opportunities for opposing teams in the post.

    The Hibbert/West duo has helped the Pacers turn into one of the top defensive teams.

    Hibbert needs to play better on the offensive end.

    The past three seasons, he has averaged more than 11 points per game, and this year he is scoring only 9.7 points per game.

    He has potential to become a much better offensive player for the Pacers.

    If Hibbert can become more consistent on offense, then the Pacers would have a more reliable post threat.    

Danny Granger's Return to the Court

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    Danny Granger doesn't seem to be missed with the way the Pacers have been playing.

    Certainly his presence back on the court would add another offensive threat for the team. 

    The Pacers do need their help at times on offense. 

    They rank 29th in the league, averaging 91 points per game. 

    But, he should take his time and make sure he is ready for full contact.

    There are signs that Granger's return seems to be soon.

    The plan still—barring any setbacks—is for Granger to return to the lineup in early February

    —Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA)  January 18, 2013

    Hopefully Granger plays the way he did before the injury and adds another dynamic to the offense. 

Defensive Attack Stays Strong

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    The Pacers need to continue playing well on defense because it will help them win games down the road.

    They do a very good job of pressuring opponents in the paint and play help defense really well, which leads the opposing players to take bad shots.

    They are also doing a good job of containing the stars of their opponents.

    Houston Rockets guard James Harden posted 17 points in the Pacers 105-95 victory last week. Harden averages almost 26 points per game and hasn't scored fewer than 17 points, since the Lakers game on December 4th.

    The Pacers defensive intensity needs to continue, especially in big games against top Eastern Conference opponents.

    Defense could help give them a deep run this postseason, but the offense needs to be more consistent throughout rest of the year.