Rejuvenated Pacers finally get a look at starting lineup, have success

It took 50 games for the Pacers to get a glimpse of what this season might be about.


An injury bug hit this team, well, is still with this team — more than any other team in the league — and is responsible, in part, for the their 18-32 record through 50 games.

[VIDEO: Paul George playing 2-on-2]

Finally, on Wednesday night with the Detroit Pistons (19-31) in town, George Hill whipped off his warm-up attire and joined Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, David West, and Roy Hibbert on the floor to open a game. Hill had only played in 10 games this season, starting three of them, most recently because of a groin injury that he returned from five games ago.

Hill looked like he was in ‘PUI mode,’ as coach Frank Vogel likes to describe his game when Hill is aggressive like he was at IUPUI. Hill played 25 and half minutes, and with a game-high 20 points and six assists, he helped guide the Pacers to a 114-109 win over their division foe.

“George being out there, leading the way is a big, big difference for us,” Vogel said.

“I think he really creates things for others, gets us organized, and he’s great playing with the basketball and without.”

George Hill handled D.J. Augustin in the post.

As the Pacers become relatively healthy, and go on with Paul George sidelined indefinitely and Lance Stephenson no longer with the team, they need the ‘Hometown Hero’ to be a big factor. When he’s out there, everyone’s game seemingly elevates.

He sets the tone with his leadership. He has such great length on defense that can frustrate opponents. He helps space the floor with his outside shot, yet he can also attack at his choosing. That was especially so against the Pistons, who started former Pacer D.J. Augustin in place of Brandon Jennings (ruptured Achilles).

“We had a point of attack,” David West, who tallied 14 points in the win, explained. “We tried to get George going early and then tried to feed off of him and that was key for us. He got our wheels turning.”

West praised Hill for what he adds to the team. Many of the guys have a great comfort level for Hill and confidence in him because they’ve been in battles with him the last few years. There’s simply an understanding, he said, that Hill will deliver.

So many times on Wednesday, Hill got the ball on the block and would back down the much smaller and thinner Augustin. The two battled in practice everyday during the 2012-13 season, so they knew each other’s tendencies.

Despite leading the charge and matching his season high with 20 points, Hill admitted afterwards that his conditioning “is at an all-time low.” He’s hoping to be close to normal after a few more games, or perhaps after the All-Star break. Hill won the battle against Augustin, and when it wasn’t him, it was the other starters.

Coming off a 1-for-9 showing on Saturday, C.J. Miles (15 points) banged in four of his six trey balls, and Roy Hibbert recorded his 13th double-double of the season (16 points, 12 rebounds).

The Pacers scored a season-high 114 points in the win, and shot a scorching 59.7 percent, their most efficient night of the season. Trailing by one at intermission, they poured in 66 points in the second half, and did so by going 6-of-8 from behind the arc. At one point early in the fourth quarter, even the bench was hitting. Solomon Hill, C.J. Watson (14 points), and Damjan Rudež connected on three straight triples.

It was that kind of night — and a much needed showing — for the Pacers.

Things, however, weren’t so joyful in the visitor’s locker room.

“We were terrible defensively,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy bluntly said. You got to really appreciate a coach that doesn’t sugarcoat it.

“We defended for four minutes in a 48-minute game. We defended the last four minutes of the first half and that was it. They shot 72 percent in the second half with virtually no resistance whatsoever.”

The Flo-Jos were worn by the Pacers from 1990-97.

The Pacers benefited from having a day off on Sunday, and then another two days to not only prepare, but get rejuvenated. (Much of the time was spent on defense, being more active with their hands and making teams uncomfortable.) That, plus the anticipation for what this starting lineup could do and the excitement surrounding the Flo-Jos, was a perfect recipe for success.

The Flo-Jos were a hit.

One player said, “These are sweet!”

Another: “We should go back to these!”

Coach Vogel said he was making jokes in the locker room pregame, such as calling Roy ‘Hibbert-Smits,’ and Damjan ‘Rudež-McKey’  like the former Pacers.

The Pacers earned a solid win, and played some of the best ball of the season in doing so. Part of it was because they were just hitting. That’s how it goes some times. The ball was moving (28 assists on 46 field goals), guys looked more relaxed and as together as we’ve seen in quite awhile.

Hill’s an under-appreciated player on the roster, one many fans often want to trade. As the Pacers continue to work towards making the playoffs — they are 3.5 half games back of Miami in the eighth spot — as they continue to stress, they need Hill to 1) remain healthy, and 2) lead the charge, as he did against the Pistons.

One game into the projected starting lineup for this season, and they gave us plenty to like.

“I like the attack-mentality of Rodney, with George and C.J. shooting out there supporting David and Roy’s post play,” Vogel said. “I like the defensive abilities of that group, and I like the experience of that group.”


  • Because the team wore the Flo-Jos for the first time this season, the game atmosphere very much had a 90s theme to it, including special video highlights from the 90s team matched with the group today, and the music selection played throughout the night.
  • Katy Perry’s dancing sharks from her Super Bowl halftime show made a cameo.
  • Ian Mahinmi left the game in the second quarter with a sprained right ankle. It was no pretty. He went up on his own for a rebound and landed awkwardly, then did not put any pressure on the ankle as he left the floor. He did not return, and x-rays came back negative. He was not in the locker room postgame.
  • As Lavoy Allen missed his second straight game with a sore right knee, Shayne Whittington then was the “next man up” after Mahinmi went down. He scored six points in just over seven minutes, but had some lapses on defense.
One Response to Rejuvenated Pacers finally get a look at starting lineup, have success
  1. holiday stress
    February 12, 2015 | 10:46 pm

    holiday stress…

    Rejuvenated Pacers finally get a look at starting lineup, have success | Vigilant Sports…