A two-on-one fast break on Tuesday night found D.J. Augustin racing down the court of Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the pogo-stick legs of Paul George on the other side of the lane. After spending last season on the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, who infamously finished with the worst record (.106) in the history of professional basketball, you could imagine Augustin has been clamoring for moments like this for a long time. Playing on a contender, tossing the ball to one of the up-and-coming dunkers in the game, and making SportsCenter highlights that will send packed houses into a frenzy all season long.
Maybe that's why when the ball left Augstin's fingers in the 102-98 victory over the Hawks, he was a little too excited, putting a little extra oomph that challenged even George's leaping ability. Up went @KingGeorge24, but the ball went even higher, and the rock brushed off George's finger-tips and out of bounds.
"Hey I threw it up, he is suppose to go get it," said a smiling Augustin. "That is why they call it an alley-oop!"
Augustin wasted no time making up for the folly, mere possessions later tossing the basketball right over Hawks guard Jeff Teague's head and to a streaking George. The ball was slammed home, the crowd erupted, and the Pacers went on to hold on to the eventual victory to improve to 2-1.
It was the third start this preseason for Augustin, who has replaced George Hill in the starting line-up all three games as Hill heals from practice-related injuries, and perhaps his best one yet. In 32 minutes of play, Augustin finished with 13 points, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers. What Head Coach Frank Vogel seemed to enjoy the most of Augustin's performance, came from his three for four shooting from beyond the arc.
"I've been encouraging him to really put pressure on defenses when he's off the basketball to be a laser three-point shooter", said Vogel. "To challenge them to stay home on him, and even if they leave him the slightest bit of air-space, to pull the trigger in their face. He did that tonight."
Augustin's numbers have slipped from his rookie year from the three-point line, shooting .439 his first year in the league to .341 his fourth, but that doesn't mean that Augustin can't be an additional deep-threat for the Pacers in the 2012-13 season.
"I'm still trying to get comfortable with the offense," said Augustin. "Playing with these guys that I have never played with before. So it is going to take a couple games, but surely I am going to end up finding my rhythm and comfortable spots."
The fifth-year point guard maybe working hard to fit in the offense with his teammates, but the players on the court sound like they could not be more pleased with is progress so far.
"He passes the ball just really well," said Roy Hibbert. "He is somebody that sees his teammates and the court really well. When ever he looks for people we try to get the ball from that look, because he has been looking out for us."
Hibbert himself had a nice game on Tuesday night, playing in regular-season form with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks in 32 minutes. Starters Paul George added a game-high 20 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes of play, while David West tallied 11 points with 3 rebounds in twelve minutes. This all taking place while Hill, along with Danny Granger and Ian Mahinmi (to open up playing time), sat on the baseline in suits next to the Pacers bench.
Yet while Granger and Hill have missed so much time in the preseason games, the duo have been practicing with the squad, which seems to ease Head Coach Frank Vogel's mind in the long run.
"They need to re-establish it," said Vogel about the team's chemistry in games. "I think it is going to come quickly. When they play together in practice, it is there. So I don't think it is going to take a lot of time, and I am comfortable with how the preseason his progressing. If everybody was healthy, we would probably still be playing the guys we are playing, giving Orlando a look, Miles a look, and some of these other guys."
Game notes: Pacers' rookie Orlando Johnson started the game, making the first two buckets for the Pacers and finishing with 6 points. Tyler Hansbrough finished the game with 7 points and 9 rebounds, despite shooting 1-8 from the field; "He doesn't always do things the right way, but he has more heart than anybody I have ever been around on a basketball court," said Vogel about Hansbrough. "He makes stuff happen. Forget the stat-line, for get all the X-factors. Just understand that he makes things happen, positive things for your basketball team." First round draft pick Miles Plumlee finished with 4 points and 1 rebound in 18 minutes, including a ferocious dunk on Zaza Pachulia. Pike graduate Jeff Teague finished with 11 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals on the night. The Pacers play next at the Amway Center on Friday night when they travel to Orlando.
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