It's almost as though the Pacers have been listening to what I've been saying in my article about the 10 ways they can still make the playoffs this season.
1. Win on the road - tick - Pacers beat the 76ers in Philadelphia, 109-98, avenging their previous loss to them at Conseco Fieldhouse.
2. Brandon Rush to wake up - tick - a continuous process, of course, but Rush has been playing better lately (he couldn't have been doing much worse). Today, he scored 16 points, shot 6-12 from the field and 3-5 from three-point range - and most of all, hit a massive corner trey with 49 seconds left to effectively ice the game.
3. Dahntay Jones to recover his confidence - tick - Jones was HUGE for the Pacers tonight, with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 26 minutes off the bench. And get this - Jones scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including a stretch where he hit three consecutive baskets (including a three-point play) in a row to keep the 76ers at bay. Big, big game for Dahntay. Let's hope he can keep this up.
4. Keep TJ Ford on the bench - tick - poor TJ was nowhere to be seen tonight. Apparently he has requested a trade, and the Pacers are only too happy to accommodate him. Unfortunately, it's not clear if anyone else in the league wants him.
Oh, and Danny Granger top scored with 26 points on 11-20 shooting, and added 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block.
A couple of suggestions for the future:
- Play AJ Price more - today the rookie had 7 points in 15 minutes - I hope to see him get at least 25 minutes a game. Even if the Pacers lose with him on the floor it will build his confidence. Earl Watson, as hard as he is trying, is clearly not the long-term solution for the Pacers.
- Play Roy Hibbert more - today the 7'2" sophomore only had one foul, but he only played 18 minutes. He scored 10 points. Today, the small line-up worked, but I'd like to see Roy get more minutes and touches. He's more athletic than people give him credit for.
Anyway, great win. Pacers are now 16-29 and back on top of the 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings.
Next up, a super tough stretch for the Pacers: Lakers, Cavs, and then two games against the Raptors. Can they surprise people and win a couple here? I say YES they can!