Can the Indiana Pacers get the top seed in the East?

That’s the question everyone is asking as the Pacers have jumped out to an 8-0 start. Paul George seems ready to make the jump as an elite player as he’s off to a torrid start with 24.9 points per game, 7.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting 47.9%. Check out the interview above where he discusses the new season and his desire to help get the Pacers over the top. The additions of Luis Scola and CJ Watson have helped the bench scoring and soon Danny Granger will be back as well. It will be interesting to see how he fits in from a chemistry point of view, but finding minutes for him is a good problem to have.

Of course it’s very early. Miami seems to start slow every year and then they turn it on, but Indiana might make it hard for them to catch up. The Pacers seem focused on getting home court advantage, and desire is an important factor in the long NBA season.

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Granger: Noah “pulled a cowardly move.”

Danny Granger had some choice words for Joakim Noah after the Pacers were eliminated in Game 5, per ESPN.

“He pulled a cowardly move,” Granger said. “He cheap-shotted a couple of my teammates, and one gets thrown out …

“The refs never catch what he did … it’s cowardly. And I’m going to say something about it. I wanted to say something about it all the way to the game was over. I just don’t think the game should be played that way. You can play hard and fight and battle, but when you start cheap-shotting people it gets out of hand.”

For his part, Noah didn’t escalate the situation any further:

“I played dirty? OK. I’m just trying to win basketball games, man,” Noah said. “It’s the name of the game.

“I’m just out there trying to do what I gotta do. Like I said, I give a lot of credit to their team. They play hard as hell. They were competitive. I don’t have anything bad to say about them. Everybody saw what happened out there. Now you want to call me a dirty player? I don’t think I’ve ever been a dirty player. It is what it is. It’s OK.”

Josh McRoberts didn’t seem to take issue with Noah’s play.

“I’m not mad about it,” McRoberts said. “He got a good hit on me. They caught me trying to hit him back.

“It’s part of the game. I’m not going to say it’s dirty. That’s Game 5 of a playoff series. You can’t say it’s dirty, it’s part of basketball.”

Here’s the play in question. You’ll see at the 0:25 mark that Noah was standing still underneath the basket with his elbow raised and McRoberts initiated the contact. Noah does nothing wrong.

Noah is not a popular player outside of Chicago, but I like his game. He plays with great energy and has a terrific feel for the game, especially for a big man. He is the heart and soul of this Bulls team.

Watch the Pacers hit 20 straight shots [video]

I don’t know if this says more about the Pacers’ ability to shoot the ball or the Nuggets’ inability to defend, probably a combination of the two. Indiana started the third quarter with a 10-point lead. Watch how the lead grows as the Pacers get hot from the field.

Indiana scored 54 points in the third quarter and won the game 144-113. If you’re wondering, the Pacers had just one turnover in the period (a bad pass by Darren Collison) and Josh McRoberts missed the final shot of the quarter (a 26-foot 3PT attempt).

The Pacers are better than I thought they’d be. They have an up-and-coming point guard (Collison) and big man (Roy Hibbert) to go along with their All-Star wing (Danny Granger). And if Mike Dunleavy is going to shoot the ball like this, Indiana will be tough to beat.

Danny Granger to miss 4 weeks

Per ESPN. He has a foot injury.

The Pacers are currently sitting in the #12 spot in the East with a 6-12 record. Needless to say, losing their best player for a month is going to hurt, and hurt bad. I don’t think Indiana will be able to recover and make the playoffs, as they play 18 games between now and Jan. 9. By then, nearly half the season will be over.

Danny Granger wins Most Improved Player

Danny Granger has been named the 2009 NBA Most Improved Player. Last month, I wrote the following in my “Predicting the 2009 NBA year-end awards” post.

Most Improved
This is always a tough one. Usually, it goes to a player that entered the league without a lot of pomp and circumstance (i.e. they were non-lottery picks) that makes the jump from role player or starter to star or superstar. The last eight winners are: Hedo Turkoglu (16th pick), Monta Ellis (40th), Boris Diaw (21st), Bobby Simmons (42nd), Zach Randolph (19th), Gilbert Arenas (31st), Jermaine O’Neal (17th) and Tracy McGrady (9th). A few of the names being bandied about are Devin Harris (5th), Danny Granger (17th), Kevin Durant (2nd), Nene (7th), Thaddeus Young (12th), Brandon Roy (6th) and Roger Mason (31st). Durant, Harris, Roy, Young and Nene all came into the league as lottery picks, a fact that works against them in this case. They’ve all made leaps this season, though I think everyone was expecting Durant, Harris, Roy and Young to make those jumps. Nene is more of a comeback player than an MIP. He’s been battling injuries his entire career, so the fact that he’s playing well while healthy is no surprise. The last few winners indicate that the MIP usually goes to a player who makes an unexpected leap, so I think it will go to Danny Granger, though his late season run in 2007-08 works against him. He averaged 22.4 points in March of ’08, and 24.8 ppg in April of ’08, so if you dig into the numbers a little, his play this season isn’t as big of a surprise. Still, I don’t think that he had the same expectations as Durant, Harris and Roy, so I think he’s our guy. Mason might be the darkhorse.
My choice: Granger
My prediction: Granger

Devin Harris finished a close second (364 to 339). The bottom line is that it’s tough to win the MIP if you were a former lottery pick; it hasn’t been done since T-Mac won it back in 2001.

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