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Review: Indiana Pacers vs Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks suffer from chronic 3rd quarter syndrome, period.

Watching them play in the 3rd quarter was like watching a group of brain dead zombies stumbling around, bumping into each other, with no clear idea of what to do. The team has still not found their groove, and is going to have a tough time maintaining a winning record till they get Nowitzki back.

Indiana, however, will take a lot of encouragement and momentum from this performance. As part of figuring out how to play without Granger, they have been struggling with a much more free flowing offensive mindset. Not any more. In what will be heralded as the game where the tide turned (if they get their season back on track), they exhibited great ball movement, the willingness to make the extra pass, and find the open teammate for uncontested shots and clean looks. The scoring load was shared evenly by all the starters, with each of them contributing at crucial junctures.

The pregame talk was concentrated around getting some consistency in their games for both the teams, as they try to overcome the loss of their marquee players. Dallas had been going great guns offensively, but turnovers and defensive execution was a problem whereas Indiana had the worst offense in the league and needed to move the ball quicker. The game came and went, and Dallas still has to workout a lot of those lingering issues, while Indiana showed a lot of improvement and should take strides in the right direction now.

The first half saw both teams stay neck and neck with each other, as they each tried to establish and impose their games on the opponent. The Pacers had a good shooting first half and stayed in the game due to better offensive execution. Dallas, on the other hand, had a fairly poor shooting half, and stayed mainly in the game due to their foul shooting and rebounding (surprising as anything).

The third quarter was where the game was turned on its head, with Indiana outscoring the Mavericks 28-18. This surge was mainly due to their fast ball movement, showing a good combination of urgency and patience in their ball movement, and great hustle on both ends of the floor. Aiding the Pacers admirably were the Mavericks, with a combination of bad defensive positioning and horrendous shooting, as they took bad shots and failed to convert open looks. Chief among the culprits were Mayo (19 points on 6-13 FG) and Kaman (8 points on 4-12 FG). The run was keyed by a timely block by Hibbert, diverting Brand’s shot, which resulted in a fast break uncontested layup for Stephenson (4:51 left in the 3rd). Key to the third quarter run was Stephenson, who was having a tough game till then. He had held up possession for too long on a couple of possessions wasting the chance to score, and was clearly affected by that. Coach Vogel called him over, had a couple of reassuring words to say, and sent him back on instead of subbing him. The result was plain for all to see, he made the 3-pointer that started the scoring spree with 7 minutes left on the clock, and added a couple of assists and layups, till he cemented the lead with another three, making the score 61-75 at 2:39 left in the 3rd. Dallas tried rallying back, but they could only reduce the deficit to 9 points with the 3rd ending at 67-76.

The 4th quarter was delicately poised, with the question being could the Mavericks mount a comeback and get the win. The answer was a resounding no, as the Pacers bench converted a hard fought lead into a blowout. The game will be seen as very crucial for Indiana, as this was the first time when all their off-season acquisitions, Young, Augustin (did not attempt a shot in the entire game) and Mahinmi showed signs of having finally adjusted to their system of play. The swing play which pushed the game was a tough turnaround jumper by Green with 9:51 to go, and he converted the and-one which increased the lead to 14. Young was especially instrumental in converting a couple of key baskets including a 3-pointer with 8:23 to go in the 4th which pushed the lead to 18, knocking the wind out of the Dallas sails.The 4th quarter also saw Hibbert reclaiming some of his confidence on the offensive end, as he converted a couple of beautiful hook shots late in the 4th and put the result beyond doubt.

So, the return to Indiana was not a pleasant one for Collison, Jones and Murphy, who instead head back to Dallas pondering over their performances like the rest of their team. Indiana on the contrary, gave great indications that can make up for the loss of Granger till February, and are ready to go back to their “smashmouth” brand of basketball.

Check out the match highlights here:

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