Give me some of whatever Bradon Rush has been smoking...
Sorry, that was an awful joke, but cut me some slack as I'm on a high after the Indiana Pacers dominated the Toronto Raptors 124-100 behind Brandon Rush's season high 26 points.
Rush was 10-18 from the field including 6-8 from three-point range, but all Pacers were feeling it tonight as they raced out to a huge 20+ point lead in the first half behind barrages of three pointers and nifty cuts and led the Raptors from wire to wire. Even AJ Price and Dahntay Jones got some minutes in garbage time.
Danny Granger had 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists; Roy Hibbert had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists; Josh McRoberts had 12 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists; Darren Collison had 17 points and Mike Dunleavy and James Posey each had 11 as seven Pacers players scored in double figures.
This was a tremendous team effort by the Pacers. They didn't really get much of a chance to show their defensive prowess tonight as they managed to knock down their shots, but this type of shooting effort (13-26 from three-point range) won't happen every night, and they'll need to suck it up defensively to beat teams when that happens.
I liked the energy and intensity the team played with tonight. There were a few momentarily lapses in concentration which allowed the Raptors to go on a couple of mini-runs, but O'Brien always called timely time outs for the team to restore its composure.
Anyway, back to Rush. I've been a huge critic of him for a couple of years now, and never more so after he copped that suspension for drug use, but this season he looks like he's for real. Much like Hibbert, Rush is playing aggressively and shooting the ball with confidence. He's been able to catch and shoot, play the two-man game with a big, and finish at the rim. He's averaging only around 12 points a game this season but bear in mind he only averaged 9.4 last season. Plus this season he's shooting the ball at over 49% from the field, by far the best we've seen from him.
He's scored in double figures in eight of his last ten games, and he's been shooting the lights out in the three games in December, averaging 20.7 points on 56% shooting (including 63% from downtown). Of course, the key is now for Rush to play like he has been playing every night. His defense has always been solid, but now he's becoming a much more complete player.
With Granger being Granger, Collison slowly fitting into O'Brien's system, Dunleavy finding his stroke back, Hibbert developing into an all-round beast, and now Rush finally finding his groove, the Pacers have a great opportunity to so some serious damage this season.
The Pacers are now 10-9 and next head to Milwaukee to face the Bucks. The Pacers lost a close one at home against them earlier in the season (94-90), a game they really shouldn't have lost, so they'll look to avenge that one in dramatic fashion to put some breathing room between them and that 0.500 line. Record-wise the Pacers are sitting pretty at the seventh position, a good three games ahead of Toronto, but there's no reason why they can't challenge the Bulls for the Central Division title and grab that coveted fourth seed in the East.