But tonight, they did beat a top class opponent, albeit one that probably wasn't at the top of its game. The Pacers maybe should have won the last time these two teams played, but they left no possibility of a last second D-Wade shot this time, easily overcoming the Heat 105-90 in Indiana, with newly retired Jeff Foster seen in the commentary booth in a suit.
Dare I say this was the Pacers best win of the year? Sure, they beat some good teams on the road early in the season, but this team had been struggling to find an identity and had been playing through a lot of ups and downs without any semblance of consistency. This win was a massive exclamation point, at least until the next game.
It wasn't just the win, but it was the way the Pacers won that stood out to me. Total team effort. All five starters in double figures, led by Grangers 25 and 9. Collison had one of his best games in what feels like centuries, racking up 20 points on 7-12 shooting and 4 timely steals. He disrupted the Heat defense with his speed and even had a two-handed breakaway throwdown, something which I had never seen before from him during a game.
West had a solid one too, with 10 points and 12 big boards, including 6 on the offensive end. Paul George had 16 and 10, including a buzzer beating half court shot that put the Pacers up by 3 at the half.
Roy Hibbert had a solid one, with 11 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. The big man's confidence is back after a post-All Star slump, throwing down a David West-fed alley-oop, facializing Lebron with a vicious one hander and swatting Lebron's layup at the other end.
The bench was not too shabby, even though George Hill, who was coming off a season high against the Bucks, didn't even score. Hansbrough had 8 points including 6 free throws (always a good sign of aggression), but it was Leandro Barbosa, the new recruit, who really spurred the Pacers to victory tonight. Barbosa had 14 points, including two 3-pointers and a three-point play for a 9 point burst in less than 100 seconds. Not quite Reggie-esque but it was brilliant, and the exact reason the Pacers made a good decision to rent him for the remainder of the season (and hopefully beyond).
Enjoy the highlights below. Pacers play the Nets in New Jersey on Wednesday. A dangerous opponent despite their record, so let's hope the Pacers keep up the momentum.