I tell you what: I was ready to write about how it was a long season and that a road loss to the Raptors in the Pacers' season opener was not an alarm but a learning experience. Danny Granger is out indefinitely with a knee injury and George Hill is still recovering from hip and thumb injuries -- those were the excuses I was going to use (and not the fact that the Raptors flat out played harder for the majority of the game).
But instead, David West entered "beast mode" and George Hill finished them off with a floater with 2 seconds left on the clock. Pacers claw back from an 8-point deficit with 4 minutes to go and win 90-88. Remarkable.
Of course, it is veteran David West. I told you he was going to be in "beast mode" often this season and he absolutely was tonight. 25 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter alone during a stretch where the team went to him on every possession and he delivered on just about all of them, helping the Pacers rally all the way back before George Hill slashed into the lane to hit that floater on the Pacers' final possession of the game (before Bargnani airballed a fallaway at the buzzer whilst defended by West).
West has been, since being acquired last season, the Pacers' most reliable offensive threat. It's great to see him looking like the David West of old.
3:27 left in the 4th quarter. David West, who had just scored 10 consecutive points for the Pacers to bring the deficit to 6 points (86-80), finally misses a jumper. Roy Hibbert beats everyone by diving to the floor for the offensive rebound and calls a timeout before the Raptors can wrap him up. West assists on a George Hill 3-pointer from the timeout, then makes two more big baskets to bring the Pacers back within one, setting up the epic finish.
- The Pacers are clearly still getting used to the new players and season-opening jitters. Plenty of horrible turnovers (18) including 12 in the first half alone. Also a lot of possessions that wasted far too much time before getting going.
- The team was efficient, though, in getting good shots and putting the ball in the hole at 47.4% including 5-11 from the 3-point line. Conversely, the D was good enough to hold the Raptors to 36.3% from the field.
- Paul George probably isn't going to significantly increase his scoring average this season, but he sure is going to fill up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. Tonight he had 14 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists to go with a block. Surprised he didn't get at least a couple of steals.
- Roy Hibbert was solid and lived up to my expectations after securing that massive offseason contract. He dominated the smaller defenders and his teammates must get credit for consciously trying to feed him the ball down low. 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 blocks is what we should demand from him every night.
- Danny Granger's absence was felt on the offensive end as Gerald Green struggled with 6 points on 2-7 shooting and had a team high 6 turnovers. Green will be fine, though I much prefer to see him with the second unit.
- Ian Mahinmi and DJ Augustin also struggled in their regular season debuts after solid preseason finishes. Mahinmi scored 1 point and had 4 turnovers and 3 fouls in 19 minutes and Augustin had 5 points, only 2 assists and 2 turnovers in 15 minutes.
- Tyler Hansbrough didn't seem to play any different but it was good to see him be aggressive and get 20 minutes of court time. Lance Stephenson also produced in 13 minutes of floor time with 5 points and 4 rebounds.
- As expected, coach Vogel used a 10-man rotation. Sam Young, who filled in at SF off the bench, will likely fall out of the rotation once Granger returns.
- The Pacers won this game because of David West and because they believed in their ability to grind out games. They had plenty of these types of games last season where they had to be patient in wearing down their opponent and that experience was the key to getting tonight's win.