• Granger relishes “closer” role

    April 27, 2012 No comments

    Danny Granger smiled broadly when it was suggested his nickname should be “The Closer.”

    It’s a reputation he has coveted for a while. 

    Granger ranks 10th in the NBA in scoring average the past five years, but he often has been criticized for not taking over games down the stretch. For the best Pacer since Reggie Miller retired, it was the worst possible knock. 

    But the 6-foot-9 forward has been Milleresque for the past month. He has averaged 7.8 points in the fourth quarter and overtime in 10 games since the start of April. During those stretches, he shot 47 percent from the field, made 12 of 19 3-pointers and hit 16 of 17 free-throw attempts. Indiana won eight of those games. 

    Granger has reconstructed his image with flair. 

    On April 1, Granger scored 13 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, then blocked a shot by Houston’s Chandler Parsons at the final buzzer to preserve a 104-102 win. 

    Two days later, Granger scored 14 of his 27 points in the final period as the Pacers rallied from 17 points down late in the third to take a 112-104 victory over New York. He scored five big points in an overtime win at Cleveland on April 11, then scored 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter of a 118-109 win over Milwaukee. 

    Overall, Granger averaged 21.6 points in the month of April, seventh-best in the league, and the Pacers went 11-2 in the games he played. He’s one of the main reasons the Pacers enter their first-round series with Orlando as the league’s hottest team. 

    Granger averages 21 points when the Pacers win and 15 when they lose, so Indiana needs to him to play well to bolster its chance of advancing in the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season. 

    Granger couldn’t find his stroke early in the season as he adjusted to the lockout schedule. He averaged 18 points in the first part of the year, shot 38 percent from the field and was left off the All-Star team despite Indiana’s overall improvement. 

    Since the All-Star game, Granger is averaging 19.4 points and shooting 45 percent from the floor.

    He’s doing that, even with a strong cast of teammates that includes David West and first-time All-Star Roy Hibbert. West, a power forward the Pacers picked up right before the season started, said Granger has become comfortable with his role.

    Granger was an All-Star in 2009 and was selected the league’s most improved player at the end of that season after averaging a career-best 25.8 points. He’s playing at least that well now.

    The Pacers are the third seed in the Eastern Conference and will play their first playoff game against Orlando at home on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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