Unbelievable. Two nights after a heartbreaking OT loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at home, the Pacers went into LA's Staples Center and shocked the defending champs Lakers, 95-92, raising their record to 8-7 (including 4-2 on the road). If the Pacers can just find a way to win at home (where they are 4-5), they'll be heading right into the playoffs.
I know it's still VERY early in the season, but Pacers fans ought to be excited. They haven't seen a team this promising since Reggie Miller retired.
This was a game the Pacers really shouldn't have had any chance of winning as they shot horribly, going 43% from the field, including a horrible 4-23 (17.4%) from 3-point range (most of them wide open), plus 15-19 from the line -- and yet they somehow scrapped their way to a victory.
This was a true team effort, led by Roy Hibbert's incredible 24 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists (thoroughly outplaying Pau Gasol), including a final emphatic slam in the dying seconds to ensure that the Lakers must score on a 3-pointer to tie. Kobe came up short twice and the Pacers escaped with a win.
Speaking of Kobe, he was simply unstoppable tonight, despite tough defense by Brandon Rush (11 points) and Danny Granger (18 points). Kobe had a season high 41 points on just 14-33 shooting, but he single handedly kept the Lakers in the game for most of the fourth quarter.
However, Darren Collison (14 points) and TJ Ford (5 points and 5 assists) continued to push the tempo on every possession and Josh McRoberts (4 points, 6 boards -- 3 offensive -- and 4 blocks) and Solomon Jones (9 points, 7 rebounds -- 5 offensive) hustled for big rebounds and repeat possessions to help the Pacers stay in the lead for the entire second half.
The Lakers raced out to a 26-23 lead after the first quarter, but the Pacers went ahead 51-45 at the half, then extended their lead to as much as 14 in the third before Kobe took over. The Pacers missed a few key free throws but managed to hold the lead through some tremendous hustle and poised baskets down the stretch. The team and their fans should be very proud.
I'm usually very pessimistic when it comes to the Pacers but seriously, Pacers fans, this team is for real. It'll be interesting to see where they end up on ESPN's new Power Rankings tomorrow.