Granger heading into his 10th game: ‘It’s coming back’
Three weeks ago, Danny Granger just wanted to join his teammates on the court for game action. He missed the final 21 games — and all of the playoffs — last season with a knee injury that kept him off the court for all but five games. Then, he was sidelined for the first 25 games this season due to a strained calf. Wednesday’s game in Atlanta will mark his 10th straight game since his Dec. 20 debut.
In the Pacers’ 86-79 decision over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, Danny Granger, who looks more and more comfortable as the season progresses, stepped up nicely as Paul George dealt with foul trouble. He tallied his seven first-half points in three different ways — on a layup, a fadeaway to beat the shot clock and a 3-point field goal. Granger finished the night with 13 points, and a season-high six rebounds.
“It’s coming back,” he said of his rhythm, game timing and conditioning. “I’m not where I need to be yet but I’m taking steps.”
After nine games, Granger is averaging 9.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in almost 23 minutes. He’s scored in double figures in five consecutive games and to the point where it’s no longer noteworthy. His early production is even far more encouraging because the 30-year-old has typically been a slow starter throughout his 9-year career.
“It’s coming,” Vogel said of Granger, who played a season-high 32 minutes Tuesday night. “He’s playing efficiently and he’s able to handle bigger minutes.
His teammates have taken notice, too.
“These games are building his confidence,” said Lance Stephenson. ”If he’s playing the way he’s playing now,” he then paused to let out a dismissive laugh, “a championship is not a worry.”
The Pacers’ bench, which ranked second-to-last in the league in points last season, is up four spots this season, to 25th (24.9 points per game). They’d prefer to see that hover around 30. Granger, along with the savvy Luis Scola, were starters for most of their careers but have brushed self-interest aside for the betterment of the team.
Having a healthy Granger come playoff time makes the Pacers an even fiercer opponent. As their spark off the bench in the sixth-man role, Granger is another offensive weapon, especially from deep, that defenses have to account for. The team is trying to get him to attack more, leading to buckets at the rim or a pass to an open teammate along the perimeter.
When he does attack inside for a layup, however, his biggest weakness in his return is obvious: getting lift at the rim.
“That’s just a part of not playing in a long time,” Granger said. “Honestly, I said the same thing. I shot 50 percent (Tuesday) and missed two or three layups right at the goal. It’s just part of getting my feel for the game back.”
One of the better indications of how he’s feeling is that he isn’t sitting out on the back end of back-to-backs, like a few other players around the league who aren’t 100 percent are doing, but rather he’s getting better at them. Tonight’s game in Atlanta will be his fourth set. The first one, even the second, his shots were short and he winded easily.
“Back-to-backs are always hard,” Granger said. “Honestly, I told my trainers when they asked me how I feel about the back-to-back, ‘I said felt like I usually felt when we had back-to-backs,’ which is good. They’re hard anyways. You play a game, you fly and then you play another game in less than 24 hours. I got through it and I feel good now and I’ll feel good tomorrow.
“(Wednesday’s) four [games] in five nights, and there was a time I didn’t think I’d ever play four in five nights. I’m handling it well.”