Phew. That was a close one.
The Indiana Pacers finally found their long lost shooting stroke and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 111-103, snapping a 9 game road losing streak and 3 game losing streak overall to improve to 15-20 for the season. As a team they shot 51.1%, including 50% from downtown. They led by as much as 16 in the third quarter but choked away the lead as the 76ers came storming back and actually taking the lead into the fourth. Fortunately, the Pacers nailed a few big shots and free throws in the last minute or two to escape with a tough win.
Danny Granger led all scorers with 27 points on 10-17 shooting, but most impressive for me was Darren Collison, who racked up 21 points, 13 assists and 3 steals. This was the Collison I wanted to see -- aggressive, freeing himself for open shots in the lane, running the pick and roll, and finding open teammates. He had been handcuffed somewhat in O'Brien's system, but hopefully this is a sign of more things to come. Of course, the fact that he played 37 minutes might have had something to do with it. TJ Ford has been solid, but Collison really should be playing 35 minutes a night.
Hansbrough was good again in another start, putting up 12 points and 9 rebounds, but Paul George only got 4 minutes. I want to see more of him.
Hibbert struggled for 8 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes, but he hit a big shot down the stretch that put a little breathing room between the Pacers and the 76ers.
This was a game the Pacers had to win. They were losing confidence fast and sliding out of playoff contention. As of now, they remain in 7th place (though way behind 6th place New York), but a couple of losses here and there and they could fall to 10th place.
Things don't get easier from here. Two HUGE home games against Dallas and Chicago, the first coming immediately. The Pacers need to at least get one of those. Dallas is potentially vulnerable because Nowitzki might be out with a knee injury and Caron Butler is out for the season, but they are still a very dangerous and well coached team (by former Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle, I might add). Pacers will have to step up their game at both ends to have a chance. And then the Bulls, a team that embarrassed the Pacers in Chicago a few weeks ago -- they'll be without Noah but who can contain Derrick Rose?
Come on Pacers! The team has not even won more than two games in a row ALL SEASON. Time for a winning streak!