Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2013

Dec 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) celebrates with center Roy Hibbert (55) after a reverse dunk against the Houston Rockets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Houston 114-81. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers (21-5) got themselves back on track by pounding the Houston Rockets (17-10) at home by a final score of 114-81 on Friday night.

Indiana suffered a tough loss against the Miami Heat on Wednesday after giving up a late run. They didn't even allow Houston to sniff such a comeback.

The game was so lopsided that Pacers coach Frank Vogel was able to use his second unit for basically all of the fourth quarter.

Indiana was led by its typically stellar defense and superstar wing Paul George, who scored 24 points on 7-of-16 shooting.

His was the best individual performance, but he certainly wasn't the only Pacer to earn a passing grade.

As for the Rockets, a couple players might want to hide this report card from mom and dad.

Key Player Grades

Dec 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) does a break away reverse dunk against the Houston Rockets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George, Indiana Pacers, Small Forward

The points Indiana gets from George are important, but they aren't really what makes him special. He's one of those rare stars who cares as much about defense as he does about scoring.

His abilities as a perimeter defender were on brilliant display Friday night against James Harden. Houston's leading scorer came into the game averaging 24.4 points. George held him to 12 on 3-of-14 shooting.

Yes, Harden is recovering from an ankle sprain, but that shouldn't negate what George did defensively. His euro-steps, step-backs and changes of pace that typically create space did almost nothing to shake PG.

In addition to the scoring and defense, Paul also grabbed nine rebounds, dished four assists and picked up three steals.

Grade: A+

Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers, Center

Roy Hibbert is having an excellent season and he looks like the leader in the clubhouse for 2014 Defensive Player of the Year. But he ran into a buzz-saw in Dwight Howard.

The Rockets center dominated Hibbert on his way to a comfortable double-double (more on that later).

In the process, Howard may have exposed a bit of a weakness for Hibbert. He doesn't move terribly well, and active, athletic big men may be able beat him with quickness.

It wasn't all bad though. His mere presence as the anchor of one of the league's best defenses is a major deterrent at the rim. He only had one block Friday night, but he helped funnel a couple drives to other defenders and the team ended up with seven swats.

Offensively, he quietly played his role as he always does. He doesn't get a ton of touches, but he's usually pretty effective around the rim. Friday, he finished with nine points to go along with the block and six rebounds.

Grade: C

David West, Indiana Pacers, Power Forward

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 20: David West #21 of the Indiana Pacers shoots against the Houston Rockets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 20, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

In David West, the Pacers essentially have a bulldozer at power forward. The bright yellow jerseys only make the comparison easier.

When he catches the ball in the low post, it appears impossible to prevent him from backing his way to the rim. Once he gets there, he has touch that betrays the analogy.

Against Houston, he finished with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

And as a Pacer, of course he contributes on the other end of the floor as well. In fact, West has become an individual defensive juggernaut. In combination with Hibbert, this frontcourt is one of the best defensive duos in the league.

On top of the 12 points, he collected seven rebounds, handed out four assists and grabbed three steals.

Grade: A

Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers, Shooting Guard

If there's a player in Indiana's starting unit that might be underrated, it's Lance Stephenson. He came into Friday's game averaging a team-leading 4.9 assists and handled nicely the playmaking duties against the Rockets.

He dished out a team-high six assists, showing off his unselfishness on the break and in the halfcourt.

He was also second on the team in scoring with 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting.

What Stephenson needs to work on now is control. He still does things that just make you shake your head from time to time. Such plays led to four turnovers Friday.

Just slowing down every once in a while would help a lot. He could learn a thing or two studying a guy like Harden who is a master of changing pace. 

Grade: B

George Hill, Indiana Pacers, Point Guard

George Hill is the big X-Factor for Indiana. If he can play well offensively, it takes a lot of pressure off George and Stephenson.

That's exactly what happened against the Rockets, as Hill created space for everyone by hitting two of his four three-point attempts on the way to 12 points in just 26 minutes.

He also dished out five assists. 

Grade: B+

Luis Scola, Indiana Pacers, Power Forward

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 18: Luis Scola #4 of the Indiana Pacers shoots against the Miami Heat on December 18, 2013 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photo
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Indiana picking up Luis Scola is going to end up being one of the biggest signings of the 2013 offseason.

The Pacers bench was perhaps the only weakness the team had last season, and Scola brings instant credibility to the second unit.

In just 16 minutes, he scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.

His mid-range shot is smooth, effortless and efficient, and it's become a surprise to see any of his little scoop shots around the rim miss.

Grade: A

Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers, Small Forward

Based on shooting alone, Danny Granger struggled mightily in his return from injury Friday. He shot 1-of-7 for five points in his season debut.

The good news is the one he made was a three and he looked to be moving pretty well throughout his 22 minutes of action. A little rust shouldn't be cause for alarm.

If he gets back up to speed, the Pacers will suddenly have turned one of their biggest weaknesses into a great strength. With a bench featuring two guys who could start for a number of teams, they should be able to make a deep playoff run.

Grade: D+

Bench, Indiana Pacers

The other two guys who played significant minutes off Indiana's bench were Ian Mahinmi and C.J. Watson. All they did was go a combined 7-of-7 from the field for 18 points and nine rebounds.

Watson hit two threes and Mahinmi swatted two shots. 

Grade: A+

Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets, Center

Dec 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) guards Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Houston 114-81. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There were a couple bright spots for the Rockets, and Dwight Howard was one of them. He consistently dominated Roy Hibbert throughout the game and put up 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in 31 minutes.

Howard has found new life in Houston, and is once again reasserting himself as the league's best center. Hibbert has gotten a lot of buzz this year, but looked terribly overmatched against Houston's 5.

Grade: A

James Harden, Houston Rockets, Shooting Guard

As was already mentioned, Harden's dealing with an ankle injury. So any harsh judgment may be a bit unfair.

Still, he was healthy enough to play and his team needed better than a 3-of-14 effort. Against the Indiana Pacers, it needed much better.

On top of the missed shots, Harden also turned the ball over five times and only managed two assists.

Grade: D

Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets, Small Forward

Dec 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parson (25) takes a shot against Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Chandler Parsons was the only Rocket who looked capable of creating his own offense against the stingy Pacers D.

He had a couple of particularly nice drives that ended with textbook up-and-unders in the lane. I wonder if he's learned a thing or two from his coach Kevin McHale, who happens to be one of the all-time greats with that move.

The clever moves and careful shot selection of Parsons led to 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Unfortunately, Parsons struggled to contribute elsewhere, grabbing just three rebounds and dishing two assists.

Grade: B

Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets, Power Forward

When the season started, Houston seemed to have very little idea who its power forward was. Over the last several weeks, Terrence Jones has settled into the role pretty nicely.

In 25 minutes against the Pacers, he scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and grabbed five rebounds.

However, he posted a team-worst plus/minus of minus-30 and was abused by West on more than one occasion.

Grade: C+

Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets, Point Guard

Patrick Beverley is Houston's starting point guard for his defense. Friday night, he did little to frustrate the duo of George Hill and C.J. Watson.

Offensively, he was quiet, but solid. He scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting.

Grade: C

Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets, Point Guard

With Jeremy Lin out, Aaron Brooks has had a chance to show himself off a bit lately. He's typically been pretty good, but that was not the case Friday night.

In 18 minutes off the bench, Brooks went 0-of-7 from the field, scored one point, handed out one assist and turned the ball over twice.

Grade: F

Bench, Houston Rockets

Brooks wasn't the only player who struggled off Houston's bench. Altogether, the reserves went 7-of-33 from the field for 18 points. Indiana's bench dropped 41 points.

Omri Casspi's struggles were particularly bad. The stretch 4 shot just 1-of-10 from the field.

Grade: F

What's Next?

Dec 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard George Hill (left) and center Roy Hibbert (right) react to the Pacers scoring a three pointer against the Houston Rockets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Houston 114-81. Mandatory Credi
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports


The Pacers will be at home again on Sunday to take on the Boston Celtics at 6 p.m. ET.

After losing back-to-back games before Friday night's contest, Indiana now has a chance to get back to stringing together wins against a sub-.500 team.


After being pummeled by the Pacers, things may not get a whole lot easier for the Rockets in their next game.

They'll travel to Detroit to take on the Pistons at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

After a slow start, the Pistons have been playing much better of late and feature a formidable frontline of Andre Drummond and Greg Munroe that may be able to slow down Howard.

For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey.


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