Admit it. You too were worried that the Indiana Pacers, one night after their stunning victory in Miami, would stumble back at home against the Lebron-less Cavs. The Pacers of last year probably would have lost this game, but not this year.
The Pacers went back to Conseco Fieldhouse and took care of business in dramatic fashion, leading by as much as 34 points before winning 100-91. Danny Granger continued his stellar play with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. Darren Collison had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Perhaps most impressive was Brandon Rush, who looks like he's finding his groove, chipping in with 16 points on 7-10 shooting.
Great win. Believe it or not, the Pacers are now 7-6 for the season, which puts them, as of now, fourth in the Eastern Conference behind Boston, Orlando and Chicago. I know it's still early in the season, but it looks unlikely that the Pacers will finish the season at the 13th or 14th spot in the East as most experts have predicted.
However, Pacers fans need to be prepared for some rough times ahead. They are still in a very difficult part of the schedule, with a home game coming up against the rising Oklahoma City Thunder. They will then be on the road for the next 7 out of 9 games, starting with a stiff challenge against the reigning two-time champs, the LA Lakers. Other dangerous teams in thus stretch include the Utah Jazz, the Phoenix Suns, the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls.
It's quite likely that the Pacers will be a couple of games below 0.500 after this period, but as long as they don't fall too far behind, remain healthy and keep doing what they've been doing, they'll be fine.
Apologies for the tardiness is reporting what must surely be the biggest story for the Pacers this season (the only thing close enough to challenge is the 54-point third quarter against the Nuggets). As I write this, the Pacers are also annihilating the Cleveland Cavaliers, so it looks like it won't be a letdown tonight.
Okay, so the Pacers took their talents to South Beach to face the infamous Big Three of the Miami Heat in a game few expected them to win. Sure, Darren Collison was back, but so was Dwyane Wade. The Pacers had struggled against the Heat when it was just Wade and a bunch of scrubs, so naturally everyone expected them to lose when you add the two-time MVP and one of the NBA's top five PFs to the team.
Instead, after a closely contested first quarter, the Pacers blew the game apart. The Pacers outscored the Heat 35-19 in the second quarter and never looked back.It was surreal, to be honest. The whole time, I expected the Heat to make a run for it with their big stars and that the Pacers would eventually falter down the stretch, but the fears were unfounded. In the end, the Pacers cruised to a 93-77 win, handing the new-look Heat their worst loss of the season (their other five losses came at a combined 20 points).
Everything that needs to be said about this game is probably said elsewhere, so I'll just throw in my two cents worth of observations.
1. The truth is, this game is more a reflection of how badly the Heat are playing as opposed to how well the Pacers are playing. The Pacers missed their fair share of shots too (41% FGs), but it was their defense that allowed them to get the win. Have to give credit where it's due -- Jim O'Brien did a great job of getting the team ready for Miami's pick and roll offense.
2. Granger struggled with his shot (6-21) but played an all-round game and led by example on defense. He had 20 points, 11 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block, leading the team in all categories.
3. The other guy that is finally starting to shine, and really, played best offensively out of everyone, was Brandon Rush. He took the ball to the rim (apparently he worked really hard on that during the offseason) and tore apart the Heat defense from the inside and out. Rush had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists on 9-15 shooting. This is what we need to see from Brandon every night, and he has the talent to do it.
4. Darren Collison returned, pushing AJ Price back to the inactive list. Unfair, in my opinion, because Price has been playing sensationally, but O'Brien refuses to play three PGs. I would have preferred to give Ford's minutes to Price, but TJ was great against the Heat (13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists in 26 minutes, and was the spark for the Pacers' run in the second) so I can't really complain.
5. Jeff Foster is struggling with back problems again so Solomon Jones returned to the lineup. And guess what? He decided to rebound for a change! Solo grabbed 10 boards (including 3 offensive) in 21 minutes. Yes, the Heat front court is soft, but Solo proved that if he really wants to, he can be a factor on the glass. Well done.
6. Dwyane Wade had probably the worst shooting night of his career, going 1-13 from the field. In all honesty his premature return probably helped the Pacers.
At the end of the day, it's just one win, but it's a big one. I hope this will be a 'spark' game and a 'realization' game for the Pacers. I hope this win will spark them onto more victories as they realize that they are actually a pretty damn good team if they play together, play defense, and play the right way. Of course, there will still be nights where they forget that and struggle, but there's no bigger confidence builder right now than beating Lebron, D-Wade and Bosh in Miami. Well, maybe until they play the Lakers on the 28th.
For the first half at least, the Indiana Pacers looked like they were on track to knock off the Orlando Magic. Roy Hibbert was outplaying Dwight Howard and no one else on the Magic was dominant. In the second half, the Magic started to impose their class, and despite some poor shooting from the outside (5-27) and the foul line (11-19), the Pacers were right in it until the very end, when Jameer Nelson outmanouvred TJ Ford and completed a three-point play. Final score, 90-86.
Look, the Magic are a top three team in the East, while the Pacers are supposed to be a bottom-three team. This wasn't a game they were supposed to win, but they came awfully close. They hung with a great team all the way to the end and came up short, even though they couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. Nothing to be ashamed of. It's a good learning experience, something this young team can build on.
Interesting stat sheet. Paul George and Solomon Jones did not play. Danny Granger shot only 5-18 and finished with 13 points, but Roy Hibbert led the way with 19 and 10. He was outplaying Dwight Howard until Howard took over in the second half and put Hibbert in foul trouble. That was the key turning point in the game.
Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy had some kind words to say about the Pacers after the game.
"I think Indiana is good. We are on the road playing, and it was a very tough loss for them. I'd be surprised if Indiana isn't a playoff team, with Hibbert getting better and (Danny) Granger. We'll see them in the postseason."
Let's hope he's right.
Next up, one of the my most anticipated games of the season against the new look Miami Heat. I'm hoping for two full-strength teams. There's a good chance Darren Collison will be back from his ankle injury, and perhaps Dwyane Wade will return from his wrist injury. Win or lose, it'll be a good test for the Pacers. At least they are playing the Heat now, when Lebron, Wade and Bosh haven't figured out how to play with each other yet.
This was a scary game for the Indiana Pacers. For starters, they were without PG Darren Collison (ankle) and Mike Dunleavy (wife having a baby). The LA Clippers were also on a horrible 7-game losing streak, meaning they were desperate and dangerous.
Fortunately, the Pacers were on their game tonight and pounded the Clippers 107-80.
Danny Granger is finally starting to realize just how good of a defensive and all-round player he can be. Against the Clippers, he Granger scored 22 points and also filled out the rest of the box score with 7 rebounds 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks with 0 turnovers. Most importantly, he held an initially hot Eric Gordon (who had 11 in the first quarter, including a vicious dunk on Hibbert) to 19 points on 5-17 shooting. Great sign that Granger is playing good D and leading by example. As a team the Pacers blocked 14 shots!
Roy Hibbert continued his strong play with 18 points (9-13 shooting), 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, but he did have 6 turnovers. However, he did have 0 fouls in 31 minutes! Finally, the Pacers look like they've got another star. If Big Roy can keep up his ascension and stay healthy, I have no doubt he can be an All-Star.
Solomon Jones did not play. Great idea. The reason is probably because Jeff Foster is finally back! The dependable veteran will never be what he once was after back surgery (and let's face it, he was always a utility player anyway), but he was solid today with 2 points (making his only shot), grabbing 4 rebounds and blocking 2 shots in 12 minutes. Hopefully he can keep up this kind of effectiveness off the bench.
Paul George appears to be out of O'Brien's dog house. He played 16 minutes and had 4 fouls to go with 3 points and 3 rebounds.
Brandon Rush finally had another decent game after struggling since his debut against the Nuggets. Tonight he had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 blocks in 28 minutes, but he did have 4 turnovers.
AJ Price played again tonight in Collison's absence and was great. He played only 21 minutes but had 14 points and 6 assists against just a single turnover. Play him every night JOB!!!!
From here, the road gets rough for the 5-5 Pacers. They take on Orlando on Saturday at home in a game that will be very difficult for them to win, but if Hibbert can stay out of foul trouble and keep Dwight Howard in check and the rest of the team can find their offensive flow, a victory is not out of the question.
Then, the biggest test -- a date in Miami with the Heat. And after that, a rematch with the Cavaliers, then tough games against the Thunder and the Lakers. No one is expecting them to win all those games, but the Pacers are already doing a lot better than what people have been predicting. Here's to hoping they can keep proving the experts wrong!
The up-and-down season for the Indiana Pacers continues. Tonight, they lost to the Atlanta Hawks at Conseco Fieldhouse, 102-92, dropping them to 4-5 for the season.
To be honest, I wasn't confident that the Pacers could pull out the victory against the stacked Hawks squad, and my confidence was further dashed when I discovered that both Darren Collison and Tyler Hansbrough were out with ankle injuries. However, to my surprise the Pacers did relatively well until the third quarter, when the Hawkes blew open a tight game.
Danny Granger led the way with 22 points, and Roy Hibbert continued his strong run with 18 points and 15 boards. For the season, Hibbert is averaging 16.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.8 blocks (last season he had 11.7, 5.7, 2.0 and 1.6 respectively). If the Pacers do a little better in the standings perhaps Roy might get a couple of All-Star votes from the coaches.
The only silver lining from the injuries and the loss was that we finally got to see AJ Price play. The same AJ Price that coach Jim O'Brien said was the best player of the team during the preseason and suddenly disappeared off the end of the bench when the season started.
Price was effective, putting up 7 points and 2 assists in just 11 minutes. TJ Ford played 37 minutes and had 6 points and 5 assists. I simply don't understand why Price doesn't play more.
As for Brandon Rush, it looks like his promising debut may have been an abberation. He had 5 points in 26 minutes, meaning he has scored just 14 points in his last 3 games after putting up 16 in that big rout of Denver. Let's hope he's not smoking again...
Next up, the LA Clippers at home on Thursday. Surely that is a winnable game! Come on Pacers! Stick to 0.500 for as long as you can!