Granger Heating Up at Right Time for Pacers

by Jeff Tzucker

Conrad Brunner Caught in the Web banner headline

Granger Heating Up at Right Time for Pacers

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

March 25, 2011

( Getty Images)

It could be finding a comfort level, finally, after adapting to Frank Vogel's "smashmouth" offense and its shift in emphasis from the perimeter to the post.
Or it could just be the calendar.

Whatever the cause, Danny Granger's game appears to be coming around at just the right time for the Pacers.

In the last six quarters, Granger has racked up 50 points on 17-of-27 shooting (63 percent), sparking the Pacers to road wins over the Nets and Bobcats.

"It's about picking my spots in the offense," said Granger. "Over the years toward the end of the year I always start playing better than I had throughout the season. Hopefully that trend continues."

In each of the previous three seasons, Granger had his highest-scoring month in April. In that span, he averaged 26.7 points in the final month of the regular season while shooting 46 percent. His regular-season averages those three years were 22.9 points and 44 percent.

If his last game-and-a-half are any indication, Granger might be getting a jump start on his fast finish.

"I keep talking about playing within the framework of the offense," said Vogel. "That’s where he’s finding 90 percent of his shots. We need a go-to guy and he’s stepping up as a go-to guy."

Granger had been mired in a shooting slump. His 33-point outing against Charlotte marked the first time he reached 30 since Feb. 12. In the previous 12 games in March, Granger averaged just 18.1 points on 35 percent shooting.

"We're asking him to attack the basket more, obviously shoot the open three, be a gunslinger when he's open. but to try to get to the free-throw line more and post up more," Vogel said. "That's had a lot to do with the change of focus for him."

This will be the fourth season in a row Granger leads the Pacers in scoring but his average has been in decline, from a high of 25.8 in '08-09 to 24.1 last season to the current 20.7. His field goal percentage (.425) would represent a career-low.

As the face of the franchise through some difficult times, Granger has carried a disproportionate burden for the team's results. He also has been the major focus for opposing defenses as the Pacers have searched for consistent complementary scorers.

With Tyler Hansbrough emerging as a threat and Roy Hibbert re-establishing himself inside, things could open up for Granger – and the team could become less reliant upon his scoring.

"I think he can be a No. 1 guy but we're not looking to really have a No. 1 guy here," said Vogel. "We're looking to have five guys that play together, play unselfishly. His numbers falling off the past year or two is more indicative not of his play but the attention that he draws from opposing defenses and opposing coaches' game plans."

This year, however, Granger and the Pacers have a playoff berth in their hands. That light at the end of the tunnel can be an illuminating experience.

"I see a big light," Granger said. "We've really got something to play for now."