I was so confident that the Indiana Pacers were going to bring their A game and topple the Boston Celtics tonight -- so confident that I didn't even post after the Pacers got blown out at home in a 104-90 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies a couple of days ago.
The Pacers played well for the first 2.5 quarters of the game, leading by double figures a couple of times, but they ran out of gas and the Celtics took over down the stretch, eventually winning 95-83.
Another home game, another loss.
They are now 13-16, but luckily they have a chance to get back on track with two games against the Washington Wizards. If the Pacers win both games, which they should, they'll be back at 15-16 heading into 2011.
The Indiana Pacers looked in control most of the night against the New Orleans Hornets, who had been struggling on the road but had also beaten the Pacers the last four times.
With the Pacers up 89-88 with 30 seconds left in the game, the Hornets miss a jumper, but David West outmuscles Danny Granger for the rebound and converts under the hoop while James Posye fouls him. West converts the and-one, and the Pacers are down 91-89.
On the next possession, Rush drives into the lane and passes out to Granger behind the three-point line. As the defenders converge on Granger, he flips the pass out to Posey by the corner, who converts a three-pointer. Pacers lead, 92-91. Roughly 16 seconds left on the clock.
After a time out, Chris Paul dribbles around West, and when Foster goes to help out, he passes it back to West, who calmly drills a 19-foot jumper. Hornets up 93-92, 3 seconds to go.
Pacers call a timeout, and from the inbounds play, Granger gets the ball just inside the three-point line and squares up for a jumper that looked good all the way. It went in, hit the sides of the rim a few times, then somehow popped back out. Just as the ball falls off the rim, Mike Dunleavy Jr comes out of nowhere and gets a left-handed fingertip on the ball, a couple of milliseconds before time expires.
The ball hangs on the rim for what seems like an eternity as the buzzer sounds, then finally drops through. Pacers win it, 94-93.
Granger top scored with 27, but did most of his damage early, finishing 8-22 from the field. Hibbert had a forgettable one with 2 points on 1-10 shooting. Things can only get better for him from here. Posey was a big hero, hitting 5-7 from three-point range to finish with 15.
And of course, in the most anticipated match up, Darren Collison outplayed his mentor Chris Paul. Collison had 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 4 turnovers on 8-11 shooting, while Paul struggled with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 6 turnovers on 4-11 shooting. Way to go Darren!
The Indiana Pacers headed to Boston to take on the streaking, albeit Rondo-less Celtics, who came into the game on a 12 game winning streak.
It was going to be tough to get the win, but the Pacers battled really hard for most of the game, outhustling the Celts to rebounds and loose balls. The Pacers had 16 offensive rebounds and forced 18 turnovers, but they simply couldn't put the ball in the hoop when it counted, losing 99-88 in the end. The Pacers are now 12-14, and are only 3-7 in the month of December.
Despite the loss, I liked what I saw from the Pacers, at least from an effort standpoint. Even without Rondo, the Pacers didn't have the firepower or the talent to keep up with the Celtics on paper (who got Shaq back), and it still took a triple double from Paul Pierce (18, 10, 12), big plays from Nate Robinson, and a couldn't-miss Big Baby Davis (hit like a million jumpers in the 4th) to win it for them down the stretch.
The Pacers couldn't make a shot tonight, and the biggest culprit was Danny Granger, who shot an abysmal 5-20 from the field but still led the team with 19 points. Granger played badly when the Pacers needed him the most, either turning the ball over or missing at the rim or on jumpers. Not a good night for Danny -- again. To become a true star in this league he needs to be more consistent. Right now he's having one good game out of every three or four games, and that's simply not good enough.
Roy Hibbert had a decent game, 17 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks, but only shot 8-23 -- but I liked the effort and the fact that he got that many shots.
There were a few head scratchers from O'Brien again in the game though. One of them was not playing Tyler Hansbrough more (again). Josh McRoberts was out with abdominal strain, but Hansbrough only played 12 minutes. Every time he is on the floor, the Pacers play with more energy. He may have missed all 3 of his shots, but Hansbrough still managed to grab 3 offensive boards.
The other was keeping Mike Dunleavy in the game. Don't get me wrong, Mike is a great addition for the Pacers when he's hitting his shots, but late in the 4th Dunleavy was getting burned by whoever he was marking, and he couldn't even get open for a shot. It was getting so bad that the Celtics were running plays through whoever Dunleavy was guarding.
Oh well. If the Pacers can hit their shots next time, they'll have a fair chance of snapping that Celtic winning streak when the two teams face off again at Conseco Fieldhouse on the 28th of December.
In the meantime, the Pacers have two more MUST WIN home games -- first against the New Orleans Hornets, then the Memphis Grizzlies. Both tough but winnable games. I may be dreaming, but the Pacers ought to be shooting for 5 straight wins from this point, and at the very worst 3 out of the next 5.
It'll be interesting to see Darren Collison face off against Chris Paul. Collison better have a big game.
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.