We at 8p9s have made it a point to try to make “new age” NBA Advanced Statistics a part of the normal conversation. Some might say that we – or, more accurately, I – might tend to get a little bit in the weeds. That may be so, but we will continue to believe we’re on the side of the angels, there. However, we’re not going to do numbers today. Without wavering in our commitment to Advanced Stats, I’m just going to talk about the experience of the game last night
- The Crowd – Though it’s true that there were plenty of Bulls fans there, it was still heartening to see the Fieldhouse pretty much full. It was also nice to see a connection between the crowd and the players. Bulls fans, though full-throated early, were pretty easily shouted down by the Pacer partisans. The atmosphere was as energetic as I’ve felt this year.
- The Movement – Backcuts, passing, alley-oops. Last night was one of the few times that this team didn’t look like they’d met each other for the first time upon arriving at the arena. Yes, there were plenty of turnovers, but few of them were of the mindless sort we’re so used to (and sick of) seeing.
- The Players – Pretty much everybody that played contributed last night. (Dunleavy only made one four-minute appearance, then did not return, but I’ll not borrow that trouble right now.) Watson was aggressive early and often. Hibbert was a presence in the paint and in the high post. Dahntay, T.J., and Luther all were active and played with a purpose. Murphy hit shots, Brandon stayed active.
- The Team – The Pacers have been hard to get a handle on this year. I don’t have access to the locker room, or anyone’s innermost thoughts (perhaps not even my own), so I have no clue as to the mental state of this unit. However, last night, they were a team. Roy and Troy were cheering for each other. They were talking and supportive and excited. I think they probably tend to get too high after success and too low after failures, but last night was just right. It’s good to see these guys still be able to pull for each other this late in a brutal season.
- The Man – Danny has quietly begun to find his game. Post All Star break, he’s averaging 26.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a night. More importantly, his eFG% is .561, a full 8 points above his pre-break average (I had to give a little taste, but just a little one.) I missed the Houston game, so I don’t know if he’s put a full game together yet or not, but this is the Danny this team needs.
- The Company – I got to watch the game with my brother last night, which is always an under-appreciated pleasure. It’s both refreshing and comforting to fall into the old patterns while watching a game. Plus, it’s great to draw on his decades and decades (and decades and decades) of experience playing and watching basketball. At halftime, I had a great chat with BillS and DukeDynamite of Pacers Digest fame. BillS thought that he saw some impact from the premiere of Winning Time. Several of the players were in attendance at Friday night’s showing, and Bill thought he saw the Pacers being more physical when the Bulls penetrated the paint. God knows it couldn’t hurt.
- The Future – Ehhh…this will come uninvited soon enough. The Pacers face four winning teams this week on a tough Western swing. The core issues are still there, and there is a whole lotta work to be done before last night’s performance will be the norm. This is like a warm day in the dead of winter. You take it for what it is, and squeeze as much as you can out of it. You know it won’t last.
Feel the sunshine while you can. It is all too rare an occurrence these days.