The Indiana Pacers headed to Boston to take on the streaking, albeit Rondo-less Celtics, who came into the game on a 12 game winning streak.
It was going to be tough to get the win, but the Pacers battled really hard for most of the game, outhustling the Celts to rebounds and loose balls. The Pacers had 16 offensive rebounds and forced 18 turnovers, but they simply couldn't put the ball in the hoop when it counted, losing 99-88 in the end. The Pacers are now 12-14, and are only 3-7 in the month of December.
Despite the loss, I liked what I saw from the Pacers, at least from an effort standpoint. Even without Rondo, the Pacers didn't have the firepower or the talent to keep up with the Celtics on paper (who got Shaq back), and it still took a triple double from Paul Pierce (18, 10, 12), big plays from Nate Robinson, and a couldn't-miss Big Baby Davis (hit like a million jumpers in the 4th) to win it for them down the stretch.
The Pacers couldn't make a shot tonight, and the biggest culprit was Danny Granger, who shot an abysmal 5-20 from the field but still led the team with 19 points. Granger played badly when the Pacers needed him the most, either turning the ball over or missing at the rim or on jumpers. Not a good night for Danny -- again. To become a true star in this league he needs to be more consistent. Right now he's having one good game out of every three or four games, and that's simply not good enough.
Roy Hibbert had a decent game, 17 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks, but only shot 8-23 -- but I liked the effort and the fact that he got that many shots.
There were a few head scratchers from O'Brien again in the game though. One of them was not playing Tyler Hansbrough more (again). Josh McRoberts was out with abdominal strain, but Hansbrough only played 12 minutes. Every time he is on the floor, the Pacers play with more energy. He may have missed all 3 of his shots, but Hansbrough still managed to grab 3 offensive boards.
The other was keeping Mike Dunleavy in the game. Don't get me wrong, Mike is a great addition for the Pacers when he's hitting his shots, but late in the 4th Dunleavy was getting burned by whoever he was marking, and he couldn't even get open for a shot. It was getting so bad that the Celtics were running plays through whoever Dunleavy was guarding.
Oh well. If the Pacers can hit their shots next time, they'll have a fair chance of snapping that Celtic winning streak when the two teams face off again at Conseco Fieldhouse on the 28th of December.
In the meantime, the Pacers have two more MUST WIN home games -- first against the New Orleans Hornets, then the Memphis Grizzlies. Both tough but winnable games. I may be dreaming, but the Pacers ought to be shooting for 5 straight wins from this point, and at the very worst 3 out of the next 5.
It'll be interesting to see Darren Collison face off against Chris Paul. Collison better have a big game.