Happy New Year everyone!
Unfortunately, the Pacers suffered their first loss of the 2011-2012 season, a not-as-close-as-the-scoreline-suggests 96-88 drubbing at the hands of the Detroit Pistons, the team the Pacers handled with ease in the season opener.
While the result is disappointing because the Pistons suck, it was not unexpected. The Pacers have been struggling to put the ball in the hole all season, and again they failed to shoot 40% (four times out of four games thus far).
Sure, they were playing their third game in four nights and were coming off a tiring overtime victory against the Cavs, plus they didn't arrive in Detroit until 3am the night before. It might have explained the sluggish play right from the tip, but it's not an excuse. Every team is going to be faced with a tougher than usual schedule this season, and the Pistons simply looked like they wanted it more.
While the Pacers looked tentative and lacked confidence, the Pistons were decisive and confident. They made a run in the final few minutes but Paul George first coughed up an easy full court pass that would have cut the lead down to 4 points with more than a minute to go, then allowed an offensive rebound and put back and he had position under the ring. That just about summed up the evening. Instead of smash mouth basketball, the Pacers were smashed in the mouth.
Darren Collison was the standout in an off night for just about everyone, scoring 15, grabbing 5 boards and dishing 8 assists. He's not going to be Chris Paul, but Collison's improvement, including on the defensive end, is heartening. George Hill seemed to have broken out with 16 points on 7-11 shooting, and hopefully this signals the beginning of a trend. Hansbrough also had 16 in another one of his "how did he do it?" nights.
No one else was really worth mentioning, except Dahntay Jones, who is simply excruciating to watch. It makes me sigh: if the Pacers had managed to secure OJ Mayo or Jamal Crawford we wouldn't need to watch him force up bad shot after bad shot every night. Why not give AJ Price a run?
Nevertheless, just as it was overreacting to jump on the bandwagon after their 3-0 start, it would also be an overreaction to say the Pacers are in for a long season. The team has a lot to work on, but they are heading in the right direction.
Next up, a road game against the struggling Nets, a game the Pacers really should not take for granted. The Nets will be hungry for a win.