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Rockets Outpaced By Indy

March 28, 2013 12:36 am EDT

Poor first quarter comes back to haunt Houston as Pacers win 100-91

HOUSTON - Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel called it Roy Hibbert’s “best overall” game of the season. He lavished the same sort of praise upon his team’s defense – a unit, it should be noted that has put together plenty of stifling, suffocating performances this year on its way to earning the league’s No. 1 ranking. Little wonder, then, that when all was said and done at Toyota Center Wednesday night, the Pacers left the building with a 100-91 victory over Houston notched upon their belt.

Yes, it was that sort of evening for the Rockets, who fell into a deep hole right off the bat and never could recover in what amounted to just the second wire-to-wire defeat Houston has suffered this season. After falling behind by as many as 19 points early, the Rockets rallied to get within five in the fourth quarter. But just as he’d done at the game’s outset, Hibbert assumed control once more, methodically scoring on one end while stymieing Houston at the rim at the other. 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks later, Hibbert had slammed the door shut on Houston’s hopes once and for all.

“Roy Hibbert’s rim protection was off the charts,” said Vogel. “He was only listed for three blocks but he changed about 20 other plays that came to the rim. They weren’t even shooting it once they got there and were just thinking pass. This was Roy Hibbert’s best overall game and with David West out, we needed him to score more and be more of a post presence and he was terrific on the offensive end as well.”

Indeed, Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough went a long way toward helping Indiana dictate the terms of engagement Wednesday night. The pair combined to score 21 of the Pacers’ first 27 points to start the game as Indiana needed fewer than 10 minutes to lay claim to a 17-point lead.

The Rockets, meanwhile, were having all kinds of trouble getting their explosive offense on track against Indiana’s No. 1 ranked defense. No team in the NBA defends the sort of high-value hot spots from which the Rockets tend to feast better than the Pacers do and, true to form, Indiana shut down the paint and the corners, forcing Houston to do its damage from less effective locations. The end result: a temporarily discombobulated Rockets’ offense that only served to intensify Houston’s predicament since so many of the club’s possessions resulted in missed shots and turnovers that the Pacers quickly turned into easy points.

The Rockets did not capitulate, however, thanks to an inspired second quarter performance from a pair of their young bigs. Greg Smith and Thomas Robinson rode to the rescue, delivering the sort of energy Houston had lacked for so much of the opening stanza. The pair were downright dominant on the offensive glass, combining to corral each and every one of the Rockets’ eight first half offensive rebounds. Smith was especially active while racking up 10 points and nine rebounds in the second quarter alone. By halftime, their collective effort had helped Houston cut its deficit to nine, leaving the Rockets plenty of time to rally.

For a moment, it seemed as if that scenario might actually unfold. Houston’s starters began the third quarter much better than they had the first, especially on the defensive end where the club had finally managed to mitigate all the damage the Pacers had been inflicting in the paint. After Jeremy Lin picked Hibbert’s pocket and went coast-to-coast for an and-one layup, the Rockets were within four with nearly seven minutes still remaining in the period.

That, however, was as close as Houston would get the rest of the way. Indiana immediately responded with a 12-3 run to build its lead comfortably back to double-digits, and with the way James Harden (6-24) and Chandler Parsons (5-14) were misfiring most of the night, the Rockets simply didn’t possess the firepower necessary to complete the comeback against a defense as stout as the one possessed by the Pacers.

“They’re a good defensive team,” said Parsons. “They take away what you do best and make you do counters. Me and James shot the ball horrible, missed a lot of open shots and they were hitting shots. They’re a good team, they’re a physical team, they’re a playoff team that’s going to make a deep run. They played hard for 48 minutes, took away what we do best and we just couldn’t capitalize.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

They jumped on us right away. We got down early and we were just never able to recover from that. They came out, jammed it inside and got a lead on us. They bottle up our offense and we never got our offense going at all, never got any breaks going. We didn’t have any rhythm to our offense whatsoever. Then the big thing was, when we did get in the paint they challenged our shots and we bobbled some passes and they were just kind of corralling everything and using our length to give us some jump shots over the top.

(when Omer Asik has an off night defensively, is team able to get by on that end of the floor?)  We kind of hung ‘O’ out there a little bit. We thought we’d just let him play Hibbert head-up. We did end up double-teaming him later; we tried to come down and get the ball out of his hands, but it was just one of those things where they got too good of position. They were too low and they were right in our paint.

We got way down early and it just didn’t seem like we had any zip or any spunk to start the game. We were lagging and, again, we just never got a rhythm that made for a funky game. We made a couple runs where I thought we could get a little game pressure on them. But we never did have any rhythm offensively.

(On the team's play) “We didn't get out. We weren't running. We wanted to try to play it before (Roy) Hibbert got down. We wanted to try to play with more pace but we just didn't do it. They shot with 45% so we had plenty of chances to get some misses and run out. We just had a night tonight where I just felt like our offense was really stagnant and in mud. We just felt like we couldn't come up with a key rebound or a key series of rebounds or something to kind of get us going. Kind of get our break going. We just never had a lot of that.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

They’re a good defensive team. They take away what you do best and make you do counters. Me and James shot the ball horrible, missed a lot of open shots and they were hitting shots. They’re a good team, they’re a physical team, they’re a playoff team that’s going to make a deep run. They played hard for 48 minutes, took away what we do best and we just couldn’t capitalize.

(On the loss and never closing the gap after a minimum 5-point deficit) “It's tough. It's hard when you play a team that is as good as them when you get down that much. So, I think the starters should take some ownership and not allow teams to get out to leads like that because it is pretty much impossible to play back from that much down when you play a team that is as good as them.”

(On the play of Greg Smith) “Greg Smith is great. He rebounded. He finished. He made the majority of his free throws. Offensively, he was great. Defensively, Roy Hibbert is a beast down there, but tonight he (Smith) was battling and held his own, but Hibbert was just hitting some of those shots.”

GREG SMITH

It was a tough one for us. They came out strong, aggressive, got up 19 so it’s kind of hard to fight back. We tried as a unit. The defense was getting stops – you can’t just trade buckets – and it was a tough one. We got back within four and we tried to keep pushing, but they’re a playoff team with great inside players. We fought but they outlasted us.

JEREMY LIN

We were never really able to break free in this game. They did a good job just controlling us and dictating the tempo of the game and how it was played.

One loss is one loss but if we learn from it, it can be a good thing for us. The key is not to compound one loss with another one.

We didn’t defend anybody. We let them get whatever they wanted and they just scored at will. They had (22) points in the paint in the first quarter.  One-through-five, all the way around, stopping penetration, getting their big guys off the blocks, team rebounding – all those things we didn’t do a good job of.

JAMES HARDEN

(On how the Rockets struggled) “I think it was just a matter of us not making shots early and then meeting the Pacers, getting out and getting a lot of easy points. (It) kind of slowed us down a bit. It was a combination of things. Obviously, we know they were a pretty good defensive team but early we didn't make shots and that hurt us from the beginning of the game.”

(On the Rockets energy level) “Slow. Sluggish. We looked tired out there from the beginning. They did a good job of jumping on us early, making us fight from 15-plus (points) down.”

INDIANA PACERS COACH FRANK VOGEL

(On the game) “A heck of a win for our club, sparked by an outstanding first quarter. Obviously, coming out and defending them at a high level but also really pushing the tempo and scoring the ball and just a great defensive effort the rest of the way. #1 defensive team against the #1 offensive team and we got the better of them tonight. Our defense was sensational led by Paul George’s matchup on James Harden. I thought he really did a strong job and our team did a strong job on him and Roy Hibbert’s rim protection was off the charts. He was only listed for three blocks but he changed about 20 other plays that came to the rim. They weren’t even shooting it once they got there and was just thinking pass. This was Roy Hibbert’s best overall game and with David West out, we needed him to score more and be more of a post presence and he was terrific on the offensive end as well.”

(On the Pacers first quarter) “I think we were just running and our energy was just great. When your energy is great and you’re a selfless passing team, then the ball is going to find the open man. In fairness, a lot of our offense in the first quarter was triggered by getting stops and then getting out and running. We’re not a team that walks it up.”

(On the Rockets making a run) “We knew they would make a run. I felt like our defensive execution was off the charts good. Even when they were scoring, it was them scoring on the right coverage and we know if we execute our defense with the right coverage, they are going to score at a very low rate. I think our defense was the best it’s been all year and that’s what prevented them from going on the run.”

PAUL GEORGE

(On his matchup with James Harden) “James (Harden) is a great player in this league and I knew what he was capable of if he gets hot so by him being an LA cat and me being a LA cat, I know his game. So I really didn’t want him to get good looks and I tried to make it as tough as I could on him.”

(On the Pacers defensive performance) “It was a great team effort. Not only did I defend well but our entire team defended well. It was just a great team effort.”

(On the Pacers on the road getting ready for the playoffs) “These games are games that we need, not only for our confidence but just for us to stay situated with the second seed.”

ROY HIBBERT

(On his matchup with Omer Asik) “I just wanted to go play aggressive. He is a talented player, seriously, and I tip my hat off to him. Tonight he was just a little off, but I respect his game and he is a really good defensive player and I know he is not going to have nights like this. The basketball gods were behind us tonight.”

(On the game) “Our guys are stepping up and making shots. I’m going to be very excited when we get everybody back healthy. We go out there and we play D, communicate and we try to help each other out as much as possible. I tell the guys if they get beat, don’t foul them, let me try and take care of them at the rim and more than likely I may get a block or alter the shot. From day one, I wanted to be on a defensive team and go out there and clog the paint and get deflections and make sure the other team shoots a low percentage. My teammates had my back too, making sure guys didn’t get easy buckets as well.”

TYLER HANSBROUGH

(On the Pacers defense) “We came out tonight and we knew what we were going against. We had to really contain James Harden and that was a tough job. We knew we had to come in and play defense in order to get the win.”

(On his play) “I just got out and ran and tried to get myself in position for open looks and that’s kind of what I’ve been doing.”

NOTES

The Rockets registered another sold out crowd of 18,134 for tonight’s game. Overall, the Rockets have 17 sellouts in 2012-13, which includes a sellout in seven of the last 10 outings at Toyota Center.

The Pacers stymied several Rockets rallies to hold on for a 100-91 win tonight, sweeping the season series with Houston (2-0).

Indiana actually scored the first six points of the game and never trailed the rest of the night. It was just the second time this season Houston has failed to take a lead in a game (other: 12/7/12 at San Antonio).

Houston went just 32-of-83 (.386) from the field, including a 6-of-21 outing from beyond the arc against the NBA’s top defensive team. Indiana came into this game first in the league in points against, opponent field goal percentage and opponent 3-point field goal percentage.

The Rockets finished their season-long, seven-game homestand with a mark of 5-2. Despite tonight’s loss, Houston averaged 100.0 points over the homestand while allowing 93.6 points per game.

James Harden led Houston with 22 points (6-24 FG, 7-9 FT) and eight assists tonight. The Rockets moved to 11-5 this season when Harden reaches at least 20 points and eight assists in a game.

Greg Smith came off the bench with 18 points (6-12 FG, 6-8 FT) and a career-high 19 rebounds (seven offensive), which marked the second double-double of his career. He actually posted 10 points (3-4 FG, 4-5 FT) and nine boards in the second quarter alone en route to a 13-point, 11-rebound first half. Smith, who surpassed his previous career best of 13 boards vs. Cleveland (3/22/13), also had 11 points (5-5 FG) and 11 rebounds earlier this year at Cleveland (1/5/13).

Thomas Robinson, who scored a career-best 15 points (6-7 FG) vs. Cleveland (3/22/13) during the homestand, finished with 10 points (4-8 FG) and four rebounds tonight.

Roy Hibbert led all scorers with a season-best 28 points (11-17 FG, 6-8 FT), 13 rebounds and three blocks tonight. Hibbert, who now has a double-double in each of his last three outings, surpassed his previous season high of 27 points vs. Minnesota (3/13/13).

Lance Stephenson returned to the lineup tonight with a season-high 21 points (9-14 FG, 2-3 FT), five rebounds and three assists. He did not dress for the prior game vs. Atlanta (3/25/13) due to a strained right hip flexor. Stephenson set his previous season best with 20 points at Denver (1/28/13).

Tyler Hansbrough recorded 16 points (4-7 FG, 8-9 FT) and eight rebounds tonight. In the prior five games (all starts), Hansbrough has averaged 14.6 points and 10.8 boards.

Paul George also finished with 16 points (4-17 FG, 6-6 FT), six boards, three assists and a game-high three steals tonight. George entered tonight’s game ranked ninth in the NBA in steals per game (1.74).