Before I get too far ahead of myself here, I’m going to remind you, me, and everybody else of the recap I wrote after a November win over the Celtics last year.
We’ve been here before. Indy Cornrow’s spstevenson nicely outlines the parallels between the 4-3 starts for this year and last. However, he feels something different, and so do I:
So it feels the same as last year, right? Nah, I don’t think so. As I am screaming at the TV waiting patiently for the Pacers to hold on in the final minutes last night, I got the feeling that this wasn’t just luck. Maybe this team is different from last year.
So, no grand pronouncements about what this might mean. Just the simple thought that the team the wore the blue-and-gold last season would not have won this game.
Roy agrees with me:
OK. I admit that this recap is being published well after Roy’s tweet, so you’re welcome to believe that I agree with Roy, but…whatever. My immediate thought after this game was over was that this was a “tougher” win than any of the 32 last year. It was ugly, and it was flawed, and those things made it all the more enjoyable.
Some wins you’re just proud of, and this was one of them.
The Pacers were pounded on the boards and gave up 21 more free throw attempts than they took. Charlotte shot over 50% in the first half and effectively shutdown Roy Hibbert for most of the second half. Darren Collison – who will be a valued and productive point guard for the Pacers for years to come – had a horrible night.
Yet they still wouldn’t quit. This time – or almost any time – last year, that Pacer team would have taken any of the half dozen opportunities available to roll over and die. Tonight, this Pacer team refused all of them, and clawed out a victory.
They did it with Danny Granger returning to his 2009 vintage badass self. He scored 33 points, bedeviling the ‘Cats with a .666 TS%. In a 4th Quarter littered with big plays by the Pacers, he may have delivered the haymaker that dazed Charlotte and opened the door. Down 5 with three minutes left, Danny drained a three and drew contact from Diop – then converted the free throw to cut the lead to one.
They did it despite limited touches for Roy Hibbert in the second. They did it because Hibbert figured out a way to contribute without being the focal point. In addition to his 13 points, he grabbed 8 boards, dished 6 assists, and blocked 4 shots. Those don’t include a crucial stop on Tyrus Thomas, up 1 with 0:10 left in the game.
They did it because T.J. Ford stepped up big in the fourth quarter – at both ends of the court.
They did it because when Jim O’Brien went to Tyler Hansbrough in desperation in the second quarter, Buckaroo Banzai delivered 8 points. When O’Brien went back to him for the entire fourth quarter, he delivered strong defense and two big steals. Left in at crunch time, he score the last four points of the game, sandwiched around the key defensive rebound of the game. Out of the rotation yesterday, hero in the clutch today.
Not to be neglected are a strong third quarter performance by Josh McRoberts, getting three putbacks to keep the Pacers afloat. Or rookie Paul George, who was schooled by the Charlotte vets a few times, but found his shooting range and chipped in 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Also, pretty much got to see all of the things I was watching for this weekend – only 11 Turnovers, hit 20-24 free throws, Tyler showed signs of being a third viable big. Just need to see it again tomorrow.
So, for one night, this Pacer team is clearly better – and more likable – than that Pacer team.
Since the Bobcat fans weren’t booing, they were chanting “Tyler,” I’ve ordered one of these for each of them. @missbumptious will be sooooooooo jealous.