As long time Pacer fans, we remember what it was like. We remember the knots in our stomachs as we watched the end of another close game with anticipation. We remember the hostile crowds, intense defense and clutch baskets from Reggie and the boys.
Those feelings haven’t been felt here in Indianapolis ever since the brawl Detroit. Are those days on the horizon, or was this first week just a fluke?
The Pacers won two of their first three games of the season, and the one loss was a close one in San Antonio. The team looks different, it feels different, and the players seem to be buying in to playing together. They have already shown that they aren’t last year’s team, giving Pacers fans signs of optimism.
For the first time in a long time, the Pacers had a sellout crowd of 18,165 at Conseco Fieldhouse for the home opener against the 76ers on Saturday night. The crowd was into the game all night, and it was fueled by the play of their beloved franchise.
The steals, thunderous dunks and all-out hustle kept the fans cheering all the way until the final buzzer.
The team knows that if they want to win it will be up to the team, not one or two guys. Roy Hibbert said after Saturday night’s game: “We’re growing as a team. This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve all felt connected as one.”
Roy also spoke about how the team is playing as a whole, and how things have changed for them as far as falling behind late in games; something they did way too many times last year.
“If a team makes a run, we don’t go into our individual play. We come together and play together. We figure out a way to win. The past two years we wouldn’t have been able to do that. Teams would have made their run and we would have laid down. This year we’re tougher.”
Roy hit the nail on the head, and they have almost completely reversed that trend that haunted them last season.
It is a telling sign of how the game will play out, as the first three games of this season are perfect examples. In the close game at San Antonio, they fell apart at the very end. In their two wins, they started the second half very hot, outscoring their opponents by double-figures in each of the third quarters.
The concern coming into this season were the two and four spots, as they were solid at the other three positions. Mike Dunleavy and Paul George have played very well in the first three games, while Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough have also both been very good through the first week.
Tyler didn’t play in the first game of the season against the Spurs, but he has been a key factor in both of the Pacers’ wins this year.
There has been a lot of emotion from these Pacers, most of which came in the win at home on Saturday night. Bodies were flying everywhere, everyone on the team was taking charges and going after loose balls.
After Darren Collison stole a pass, he finished with a dunk and was fouled. He pumped his chest as the crowd rose to their feet. The next possession he got another steal, but before he could get to the basket, he was fouled as he threw a behind the back pass.
He once again rose his arms to the crowd, as Conseco Fieldhouse grew loud for the first time in years.
Roy Hibbert actually had a little too much emotion at one point during the game. He took a charge, got up clapping his hands and was called for a technical foul.
It was a terrible call, but it is what it is. Roy even said as much after the game. “That’s okay, I’ll write my check and it’ll be fine,” he said with a smile. “We won the game. That’s what counts.”
Wow, Roy Hibbert is quickly becoming the true face of this franchise with his play on the court, his words off-the-court and his offseason workouts.
Most of the glory days for the Pacers in the NBA came at Market Square Arena, their home before Conseco Fieldhouse was built. The fans haven’t been this excited probably since they made the move to their new home.
Of course, there is no more Reggie, Smits, Mark Jackson or either of the Davis brothers, but the look and feel of this team is similar. The playing style is very different, but the way they have been conducting themselves is something fans are happy to see…finally.
There are still 79 more games to be played, but if the Pacers keep playing with the same fire and intensity, the fans will keep showing up and the building will be loud.
The Pacers motto last season was, “Ignite the passion, restore the pride.”
Perhaps both of these things look like they are finally happening. Sure the teams are excited to get on the floor and play some basketball, but as the season progresses, some guys might lose interest and injuries can always play a factor into a team’s plans.
The second part, restore the pride, is something that we have missed here in Indy for the last six or seven years. Many of the guys on this team don’t really know much about the Pacers history, though.
Darren Collison, for example, said this after Saturday night’s victory: “Jeff Foster has told me what it used to be like around here. The goal now is to bring that back.”
If Darren, Roy and Danny have anything to say about it, the Pacers future looks bright again.
Tags: Antonio Davis Conseco Fieldhouse Dale Davis Danny Granger Darren Collison Detroit Pistons Indiana Pacers Jeff Foster Josh McRoberts Mark Jackson Market Square Arena Mike Dunleavy NBA Paul George Philadelphia 76ers Reggie Miller Rik Smits Roy Hibbert San Antonio Spurs Tyler Hansbrough