Indiana Pacers given a boost as Granger return’s to the lineupBy David A.
The Indiana Pacers now feel complete. For the first 55 games of the season, the Pacers played without last year’s high scorer. On Saturday night, Danny Granger made his return to the Pacers lineup and he and his teammates put the rest of the division on notice.
Granger’s debut after rehabbing his knee was not one he probably wants to remember as he hit just 1 of his 10 shots to finish with 2 points on the night. However, more importantly he is back in the lineup and has 26 games to get up to speed before the playoffs start.
The Pacers have opened a 2 ½ game lead over the Chicago Bulls in the Central division race, with the Milwaukee Bucks a full 8 games behind. Chicago continues to play without its superstar point guard Derrick Rose who is also rehabbing a knee after an ACL tear in the first round of the playoffs last season.
With Rose still out of the Bulls lineup and Granger appearing in his first game for Indiana, it looks as though Indiana should be able to put more distance between them in the Bulls and Bucks. There is also the outside possibility they could move up higher in the Eastern Conference playoff race where they are currently in second place behind just the Miami Heat.
On offense, the Pacers will get great help from Granger. He averaged nearly 19 points per game last season and with his perimeter shooting, the offense can spread the floor better to help take away defensive pressure down low.
The one problem could be how Granger will fit in again amongst his teammates, especially Paul George who has blossomed into a star after not playing in Granger’s shadow the first 55 games of the season. If Granger can accept the fact George is the new face of the team then his return to the lineup in Indiana should be seamless and prove to be nothing but a huge plus.
The Pacers have one of the league’s best defenses and with Granger returning their offense will get much better. Defenses will not be able to key on George or forward David West with the additional of Granger in the lineup. The division title is the Pacers to lose at this point, with their lead and the additional offense they will have with Granger to add to their suffocating defense.
However, if Chicago gets Rose to return to the lineup, and he has started to practice, then the race will be even closer heading toward the playoffs. With the return of Rose, the Bulls would have the equivalent of a huge trade giving them instant offense to go with their strong defense.
At this point, with the return of Granger to the Pacers lineup the momentum swings in their favor, but the possible return of Rose could change the entire outlook of the division in a moment. Stay tuned.