It wasn't without a scare, but the Indiana Pacers put together a much better effort against the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers, winning 108-99 in the end.
Granger had 30 points to lead the way, and Hibbert, Rush and Dunleavy each had 15.
The win snapped a 3-game losing streak, but things don't get much easier as the Pacers next head to Boston to take on the Celtics.
The good news is that the win will give the Pacers some confidence. The great news is that Rajon Rondo won't be playing, sitting out with an ankle injury. The bad news is that it's still going to be very very hard to beat a Boston team that has won freaking 12 games in a row.
There's no particular area or player that the Pacers need to focus on for the win -- they simply need to be close to perfection in every facet of the game in order to have a chance. They've already done it this year against the Heat and the Lakers, so why not the Celtics?
Won't be easy. Even if they lose, let's hope the Pacers at least put in a good effort and make it respectable. They can't let the Celtics jump out to a lead.
This recap comes a little late, but it was tiring always posting about Pacers losses to superior teams. And they don't get much more superior than the two-time defending champs, who were out for revenge after the Pacers stunned them at Staples earlier in the season. The result was another drubbing that saw the margin expand to 20+ points. The Lakers were on their game, the Pacers were ugly. Final score, 109-94.
That early season swagger is well and truly gone now after 3 straight losses and losing 6 out of their last 8. Luckily, 11-13 isn't all that bad, and they have a chance to get back on track tonight against the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers, whom they've already beaten twice this season.
The Pacers will need to treat this one as a MUST WIN, considering they then go on to Boston to face the streaking Celtics, play New Orleans and Memphis at home (winnable but tough), then Boston again at home. Assuming the Pacers beat the Cavs, they'll still need to go 2-2 during this stretch to keep their record respectable. If they go 0-4, the season could quickly spiral down to a repeat of last season.
The Indiana Pacers lost 92-73 to the Chicago Bulls, but to be honest, I don't feel too bad about it.
The Bulls were hot and on a five-game winning-streak entering their encounter with the Pacers. The Pacers were without their leading scorer Danny Granger (ankle). They fell behind early 14-2 as the Bulls simply could not miss.
But the Pacers, despite an obvious disadvantage in talent, slowly clawed their way back through hustle plays and defense, and they actually took the lead just before the half with the second of two Josh McRoberts' put-back slams.
The Bulls threatened to pull away several times in the second half, but the Pacers managed to stay close most of the way until the last few minutes, when they finally ran out of steam and the Bulls pulled away.
An awful performance overall, but the Pacers scrapped hard against a better team and didn't embarrass themselves tonight, especially when they were missing their best player and leading scorer.
With Granger out, Rush tried to take over the scoring load, but he shot just 5-17 from the field to end up with 13 ponts. TJ Ford was the Pacers' best player in this one, also scoring 13 points with 4 assists. The big disappointment tonight was Roy Hibbert, who just couldn't get it going tonight, playing just 20 minutes and finishing with 6 points and 3 rebounds on 2-7 shooting. This has been a bad stretch for Roy.
Derrick Rose played okay. He had foul trouble earlier in the game but finished with 17 points and 12 assists. He did turn his ankle in the fourth and then flew right into and then over Brandon Rush on a drive late in the game. Fortunately, he only suffered a sprained wrist.
As I predicted, the Pacers fall below 0.500 with an 11-12 record, and the games actually get tougher from here. On Wednesday, the Pacers take on the Lakers at home. The Pacers shocked the Lakers in LA a few weeks ago, but that was then nobody noticed them, the Lakers were playing bad, and the Pacers were on a high. This time it won't be so easy.
What can I say? The Hawks were too good for the Pacers, again, even without Joe Johnson.
It's hard to win a game when both Hibbert and Granger go 3-14 (Granger had 8 free throws to give him 16, but Roy had none to give him 6). As a team they shot 37% in one of their worst offensive outings of the season. The Hawks blew the game wide open in the second quarter and the Pacers never recovered.
Disappointing, yes. But the Hawks are a good team and the Pacers are still finding their feet. I guess it was the way the Pacers lost that was more disappointing. Perhaps it's a good thing that Pacers fans still expect them to win and are disappointed when they lose?
The team falls back to 11-11 for the season and chances are they will fall behind 0.500 soon with a tough road game against the streaking Bulls (who have won 5 straight) -- then games against the Lakers, New Orleans, Memphis, and two rough ones against the Celtics.
I keep saying this, but this is really the make or break point of the season -- again! The Pacers are in a position to make the playoffs, but whether they can be a 0.500 team this season remains to be seen. They are ranked highly in a lot of statistical categories which define good teams, but they still can't pull out close games and still have off nights too often, like we just saw against the Hawks.
A much better effort this time against the Charlotte Bobcats after their disappointing loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pacers led most of the way, but couldn't really put the Bobcats away until the end of the fourth quarter. Whatever. They won 100-92, and that's all that matters.
Hibbert had 13 points, 14 boards, 6 assists and 3 blocks. Granger had 18, Dunleavy had 15, and Rush had 16.
I'm really liking what I'm seeing from this Pacers squad right now. When they defend, rebound and hustle, they are a tough team to beat, even when their shots aren't falling. When they feed the ball inside to Hibbert, good things happen. I don't understand why they don't go to him more often.
Josh McRoberts is starting to look more and more like a starter in this league after getting virtually no playing time in his first 3 years. People tend to forget that he's only 23 and still improving. For the season he's averaging 6.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 blocks. Not super numbers or anything but he's been so much better than I expected. I just wish O'Brien would play Hansbrough more. The kid has so much potential and he makes the Pacers a better team when he's on the floor.
Solomon Jones is another pleasant surprise. I've been one of his harshest critics, and last year he was absolutely hopeless, but this season he has really turned his play around. He's hustling, rebounding and playing so much better in every facet of the game. Statistically it might not be showing (4.6 points, 3 rebounds in 14.3 mins per game) but he's giving it his all out there.
Speaking of surprises, how about James Posey? The two-time NBA Champ is leading the way with his hustle plays, taking charges, diving to the floor and hitting big shots. While Collison may not have lived up to the lofty expectations that he carried when he was traded to the Pacers, Posey has definitely exceeded expectations.
Another good game from Rush today after he struggled in the loss to the Bucks. He's finding his niche too -- just needs to watch some of his passes -- but when his shot is on, like it was today, he makes the Pacers that much better. I'd like to see Rush start over Dunleavy on a more consistent basis and play more minutes. Rush is averaging just under 30 minutes per game but I'd like to see O'Brien up it to 32-35. Dunleavy had a good one today but he's still too inconsistent and not reliable enough defensively. He's so great at getting open shots, but he also misses a lot of them. I say bring him off the bench, let him shoot a few, and if he's hot, keep him on. If not, get him off.
Too much rambling again. Tomorrow a big one on the road against the Joe Johnson-less Atlanta Hawks. The Pacers lost to them earlier in the season at home by 10, so it's time for some revenge. While last time I doubted they could win, this time I truly believe they can. Go Pacers!
PS: Stephen Jackson was booed in his return to Indiana -- Pacers fans still haven't forgotten how he raced into the strands right after Ron Artest.