Indianapolis — 11/15/13
History and the Indiana Pacer marched on Friday night as the NBA’s only undefeated team throttled the severely under-manned Milwaukee Bucks, 104 – 77, improving to 9 – 0.
Behind 24-points and eight-blocked shots from center Roy Hibbert and another 22 points from forward Paul George, the Pacers became the first team since the 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks to start a season with nine wins.
“Roy Hibbert was sensational,” said head coach Frank Vogel, going on to commend Hibbert for proving “day-in and day-out” the center is “a clear front runner for best defensive player in the game.”
Hibbert played for nearly 31 minutes Friday night, earning 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots increasing his league leading total to 42.
“I wish I would have played him two or three more minutes and maybe he would have gotten a triple-double,” Vogel said.
Hibbert was the Pacers’ leading man for much of the night, finishing the first half as the team’s only double-digit scorer. But it was Hibbert leading the team’s defense that put the Bucks (2 – 6) on their backs for much of the game, where they trailed by as much as 16 in the first half. The Central Division’s last-place team went to the free throw line only once in the first half and had their 3-point chances limited in the second half after guard O.J. Mayo hit his first three 3-point shots.
“We went through some lapses where we weren’t communicating, weren’t giving it enough effort,” Hibbert said. “But we went ahead and finished up the game.”
That they did, as they finished the fourth quarter on a 19 – 7 run to put away a Bucks team which listed eight players on its injury report, while playing 10. Though they all scored, the lack of depth was glaring, as Mayo was the only Buck to score double-digits through three quarters, before finishing with 20.
The Pacers, aside from Danny Granger’s strained calf, had a full complement of players on the bench. Vogel wanted to keep it that way as he benched his starters with three minutes remaining to keep them healthy for three-straight away games, beginning with a showdown in Chicago Saturday.
Asked about what it means to lead the league, Vogel referenced the wisdom of a former NBA coach.
“Jeff Van Gundy said it in a broadcast two years ago, the teams that are one-seeds are the teams that bring it harder and more often than anybody else,” Vogel said.
The Pacers will need to continue brining “it” if they want a shot at establishing the best start in NBA history, a 15 – 0 mark currently held by the 1948-49 Washington Capitals and 1993-94 Houston Rockets.
But Vogel’s Pacers should keep in mind those 2002-03 Mavericks. That team played to a 14 – 0 start, tied for the second best start in NBA history, before suffering a huge loss on Thanksgiving.
The winning team?