Ahhh, that's better. Preseason wins and losses don't mean a thing, especially with starters sitting out and random combinations of players filling the various playing rotations. But effort and at least appearing to know what you're trying to accomplish as a team is worth measuring. With that minimal metric in mind, the Pacers put forth a vastly improved performance on Friday night in Fort Wayne and relied on their new faces to put away a 102-95 win.
With the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, T.J. Ford led the team with plenty of help from Brandon Rush and Jarrett Jack. Both Rush and Ford finished with 18 points. Ford can't be stopped with the ball in motion and with the ball in the lane showed he can finish with a bucket or an assist depending on what you give him. He sealed the game shut by taking rookie Derrick Rose to the bucket for a hoop and the harm. Beautiful.
As Quinn Buckner mentioned, Rush contributed a quiet 18 points which is backed up by his efficient 7 of 9 shooting night from the floor. Rush played 27 minutes and really looked comfortable on the floor in the second half. One nice aspect of Rush's scoring tonight was his ability to finish at the rim on several occasions. During the first game against the Hornets, Rush was bumped while going to the hole and kind of gave up on the play. But what would've been a foul last year in Allen Fieldhouse, was a clean play in the NBA. No foul, we're going the other way. Tonight he finished strong and certainly wasn't expecting to draw any fouls. I guess the kid's a quick study.
Late in the game somebody had Larry Bird chuckling from his seat in the stands when the camera was on him. Honestly, I can't remember seeing Bird smiling from his seat while watching a Pacers game over the past couple of years. I couldn't help but share the laugh even though I didn't hear the joke.
Here are a few other thoughts from the game:
- Danny Granger continued to struggle shooting the ball, but Marquis Daniels was able to get it going. Danny was getting good looks so at this point that's all that matters. When the lights brighten for the regular season, he'll be ready. Both Danny and Quisy sat out the second half.
- Is it just me or does it seem like Del Harris is coaching the Bulls and Vinny Del Negro is his assistant? Seemed like both were up every time they showed the Bulls' bench and the familiar face of Harris had me thinking, wait, who's the head coach?
- Mike Dunlealvy spent most of the third quarter on the television broadcast with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner. Sounds like he plans to start practicing next week and will be ready to go for the start of the regular season.
- I could watch T.J. Ford break down his defender, pull up and knock down that 15-17 footer all night.
- Austin Croshere is officially in the Jonathan Bender zone. We hear about how Cro is wowin' 'em in practice, hardly misses a shot and then his game results reveal pretty much what we've always seen. He'd be a great veteran presence to have on the roster but any actual production will remain a pleasant surprise.
- David Morway chatted with Stacy Paetz about the trade. Difficult to give up Shawne but picking up some financial flexibility and assets while thinning out the crowded wing position is a good thing. But wait, Bird said the Eddie Jones will report to the Pacers on Sunday. Has to be a formality, otherwise the wing position remains clogged.
- Great to see Stephen Graham back with the team and playing. Toward the end of the third quarter, Stevie was the only player on the floor who was with the Pacers last year.
- I may say this after every game, but watching the easy stroke of Brandon Rush is quite enjoyable. Watching said stroke after Ford finds him spotted up on the wing, even better.
- Tyrus Thomas is freaky athletic. While Dun was on the broadcast, Thomas missed an open jumper that Dun mentioned wasn't in the scouting report. In other words, let him shoot it all night. A couple of possessions later Thomas flew through the rafters for a highlight finish. Dun remarked that was a shot he (Thomas) won't miss.
- Roy Hibbert forced me to yell out loud when he dropped a sweet back-door bounce pass to Jack for a reverse layup. A few minutes later he converted a difficult past to McRoberts for a dunk. Nice. Love seeing all the young guys (Hibbert, Rush, McRoberts) get big minutes.