Today marked a significant day in Indiana. Well, for the opposing team at least.
The Indiana Pacers faced off with the Boston Celtics, marking coach Brad Stevens’ first game back in Indiana as a NBA head coach. We should all remember Stevens’ great run at Butler as he led them to back to back National Championships games.
However, the results didn’t go in Stevens’ favor: the Celtics were routed by the Pacers 106-79. Better said, this score is not a surprise at all. Indiana doesn’t lose at home. They recently dropped their first game at home to the Detroit Pistons as they put together one of their best games of the season to down the Pacers.
Lance Stephenson added his third triple double of the year and continues to take strides with maturity. MVP candidate Paul George led the team with 24 points and 9 rebounds. Roy Hibbert chipped in 15 points himself and the benched poured in 40 points.
This game also was significant in another way, this time in favor for the Pacers. Of those 40 bench points, Danny Granger contributed the most off the bench with 12 points in 25 minutes. This was his second game back in the lineup for the Pacers and Pacer Nation seems very pleased to see #33 back healthy.
Counting today, he has played in 7 games in the last 2 seasons. Seeing the All-Star back in the lineup baring injury will pay big dividends for the Pacers.
5. Humble, hard working, and talented
Who doesn’t need a guy with those 3 characteristics in their lineup? Granger is in his 8th season in which he has worn nothing but the blue, white, and yellow. The fans love him and have seen many great moments from him. Now that Granger is back in the lineup with emerging star Paul George, you can’t help but think that the Pacers are making an even stronger case for being the best team in the East. He will be easy to fit right in with the success of the Pacers because he defends and plays unselfishly.
4. Don’t trade Granger!
Let’s not count Granger out just yet. He has undergone two significant injuries in the last two years. Paul George has surpassed him in his time out and became the face of the franchise. The Pacers even advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals and were one game away from reaching the Finals without Granger seeing any minutes.
I understand why the trade talks arose after all the success the Pacers have endured lately. What’s wrong with more talent, though? He opens up the Pacers playbook a little bit wider and gives the Pacers more depth. The Pacers defend well but are generally not the most impressive offensive squad to watch. Granger can help lift the Pacers especially on the offensive end.
3. Boston, Miami, San Antonio… Indiana?
You need somewhat of a Big 3 to win in this league nowadays. We can see that by looking at the success of the Boston Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. Miami now has a Big three of their own.
When Granger gets all the way back to himself and playing at a high level, we can consider the Pacers to have a Big 3 of their own in George, Hibbert, and Granger. Of course right now Granger is coming off the bench, but if he can return his game to a high level, Coach Frank Vogel will have some decisions to make at the small forward position.
2. Take the pressure off Mr. George
Paul George is getting better and better. It almost seems that he is getting better by the day. But let’s look at the end of the last game against the Miami Heat. It was more than obvious that the Pacers would try to get the ball to George down the stretch and ultimately it resulted in a turnover. Granger gives the Pacers another option to take the pressure off of George on the perimeter.
Let’s say George has an off night like he did earlier this year in Chicago which resulted in a blow out win for the Chicago Bulls. It’s a luxury in the NBA to have that player that can pick the team up when the star is struggling. That’s the opportunity the Pacers have with Granger back.
1. Becoming the Eastern Conference Champion is reality
It is a hard task to guard LeBron James and score 25 points in a game. That is nearly the task that Paul George has seen over the past year when facing Miami. It would be better if George was in James’ weight bracket but he is not even close.
Granger adds size to an already huge lineup. Granger can relieve George of this task on a possession-by-possession basis and allow George to be more effective on the offensive end. Adding size on the perimeter only makes it even more difficult for the Heat to succeed as the Pacers already dominate the paint.
Welcome back Danny, may you stay healthy!
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