Not just physically, but mentally -- of the Pacers' performances over the last couple of games. First, they get rolled by Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets (Collison just got trampled). Then, they had a bit of luck in eking out out against the Washington Wizards at home. These are two teams the potential fourth seed in the East should not be struggling so much against, especially when they just showed they can beat the Miami Heat.
Next, a huge test. The San Antonio Spurs. Let's hope George Hill will go off against his old team and grab a much needed victory against one of the consistent and fundamentally sound teams in the league.
Oh, it looks like I forgot to post about the Pacers beatdown of Milwaukee the other night in the third game of their back-to-back-to-back. It wasn't against a top class opponent but a win is a win and given how shaky the Pacers have looked recently in some disappointing losses it was certainly a much needed confidence booster. Here are the highlights.
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.
I first caught a glimpse of the score at halftime. It was 51-31, Wizards. I decided to go bang my head against the wall and not look at the score again.
When I finally got around to it, the Pacers had won, 85-83. Should I have been upset that the Pacers were down 22 points to one of the worst teams in the NBA, or should I be glad that they could come back from 22 points down to beat anyone? I guess at the end of the day, a win is better than a loss.
Sad news. Jeff Foster has announced his retirement from the Indiana Pacers after being unable to get over the back issues that have been plaguing him all season (and the last couple of seasons). At 35 it's a little young, but when you're done you're done, and it's good he was getting out before it got a lot worse
It's unfortunate, as when he did play, Foster was still one of the best rebounding hustle machines around, and actually helped out the team much more than guys like Pendergraph and Amundson. The good news is that Foster is staying in Indiana and will hopefully work in the Pacers front office some day. He's also going to be hanging around the team for the remainder of the season, and his presence and professionalism will continue to be appreciated.
Foster was drafted with the 21st overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors and has played every single game of his NBA career for the Pacers, putting him in elite company with Reggie Miller and Rik Smits. Sure, Foster's career numbers were modest at best -- 4.9 points, 6.9 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, for 764 games, including 345 starts -- but his presence was undeniably positive. He was one of the best rebounders of the modern era even if his averages don't jump out -- he is 8th in NBA history in terms of rebound rate (the percentage of available rebounds grabbed) and 5th all-time in offensive rebound rate. Do you realize how crazy that is for a white guy from Texas who is a weak 6'11" (he's not a long player for his height), just 250 pounds and not supremely athletic?
But it wasn't just his rebounding either. Foster could defend both fours and fives pretty well, block shots, take charges, set screens and do all the dirty work. He was also more than willing to play the villain, as he did against the Bulls in the playoffs last year. Jeff was the last remaining member of the Pacers team that made the NBA Finals in 2000 (even though he didn't play), and I guess it's time to finally let that glorious past go. This new Pacers team has a chance to be pretty good too in a few years, hopefully.
To fill the hole left by Jeff, the Pacers signed Kyrylo Fesenko for the remainder of the season. Fesenko will be a contingency plan and not much more than that. He isn't particularly skilled but he does offer a 7'1", 280 pound body that he likes to throw around a bit.
Thanks Jeff. Your efforts were appreciated and you will be missed.