Notebook: Confidence Key for Green, Injury Update, Playoffs
In the last two games, after sitting out nine of the previous 11 games, Green has showed signs of what the team hoped they were getting when they signed him to a three-year deal over the summer. He’s scored 35 points and connected on half of his shots, 13-of-26. For the season, about 35 percent of his shots have gone down – well below his 48 percent clip last season with the New Jersey Nets.
Even better, he’s gone after rebounds, pulling in 14. And, his turnover ratio is 2:1. It’s also important to keep in mind that these two strong performances were against two of the worst teams in the league, Cleveland and Orlando. We all know he’s a fantastic leaper, likely one of the best in the game. But it’s important for Green and to Green, to be more than that.
“Defense and energy,” Green said, when asked what he focuses on when he checks in. “I’m trying [to] help out tempo, get faster, especially when I’m in the game with Lance [Stephenson], the way he pushes the ball. I want to be able to run with him because that gives us another outlet or another option that the defense has to play. If I’m running the floor with Lance and you don’t play me, that’s a lob.”
Benching D.J. Augustin for Ben Hansbrough worked wonders for Augustin and the Pacers hope that’s the case now with Green.
“His biggest error this year was that he just wasn’t making shots,” Frank Vogel said prior to Tuesday’s game. “When he wasn’t making shots, he tried to put too much pressure on himself to force and he was making bad decisions.”
While he was benched—only playing in nine of the last 26 games heading into Monday’s contest in Cleveland—Green spent extra time on the practice court. He worked on his jumper, isolation moves, and getting shots off within two dribbles.
The biggest key Green pointed to is the shooting games after practice between the guards. Associate Head Coach Brian Shaw joins Green, George Hill, Paul George and Stephenson to form teams and they oftentimes have a shoot-off going around the arc. Recently, Green left the practice floor smiling and made a big deal of his win with Coach Shaw. The confidence was back and he was ready to make a difference on the floor.
Vogel expressed frustration with himself for not finding an opportunity to move Green back in earlier. “When we put him out of the rotation, my anticipation was that it would be for a week or two,” he said. Instead, it lasted about two months.
Part of that was because of the stellar play of rookie Orlando Johnson, who Vogel credits for making the right system plays and, in turn, is most efficient because he knows where to find shots.
“We’re talking everyday about the bench unit making system plays,” Frank Vogel said of his bench. “They don’t have to try to go out there and be Michael Jordan and create their own shot and do all this stuff. Just play within the system. There are so many shots within the rhythm of the offense that are there to be had if you just read defense and know what shots are expected of you. When you do that, you shoot them with greater confidence.”
Confidence has also been an issue for Tyler Hansbrough as well. Inserted into the starting lineup in the past two games for an injured David West, the 6-9 forward has flourished.
“I think it has been a big issue for me. Coming in and not worrying about mistakes and just getting into the rhythm of the game. I feel like [the last two games] is a big deal for me.”
Additional minutes and getting into a rhythm are critical for him. He’ll be the first to tell you, however, that he understands his role and is just holding down the fort until West returns. But that doesn’t mean he should stop producing when he’s coming off the bench again. Like Green, the Pacers need a strong bench as they look ahead to the playoffs, which are less than a month away.
“We’re playing great ball right now,” George said. “We’re playing for one another, as always. And our defense—our defense is getting back to form.”
In the Training Room
David West, dealing with a lower back sprain, missed his second-straight game Tuesday night. Coach Vogel said pregame that he didn’t think West could play even if it was a playoff situation. “He’s pretty banged up, and having trouble walking.” West is listed as day-to-day ahead of this weekend’s games against Milwaukee and Chicago.
Tyler Hansbrough took an elbow to his stomach in the final seconds of the third quarter. Despite all that, he was able to grab the rebound and get the basket to fall as time expired, for the final two of his 14 points. He also had 14 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season. In the locker room afterwards, Hansbrough said he got hit in the abs and has a “little strain.” He has no concern for his availability in Friday’s game.
Danny Granger is resuming much heavier activity this week. After returning from a left knee injury and playing in five games, Granger dealt with above-average soreness. He then limited his work and took it easy these past two weeks. The training staff will monitor how his knee responds to the increased activity. Vogel is hopeful that Granger might return as soon as next week for limited game minutes.
Playoffs Guaranteed, Any Night Now
There’s no question the Pacers are going to the playoffs for the third-consecutive season. It’s just a matter of when they’ll be locked in and what seed they might earn. With one more win or Philadelphia loss, the Pacers will clinch a playoff spot. That could come as soon as this evening because the 76ers are out playing out West against the Los Angeles Clippers, which have the fifth-best record in the NBA. [Update: Pacers’ playoff spot secured.]