The Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Hornets played a preseason game which became a close approximation of a regular season fight for a win. The Pacers battled for all 48, but the Hornets had too much for them at closing time and slipped away with the 101-96 win.
The Hornets were planning to play it like a regular season game and based on how Byron Scott distributed the minutes, it appears they did. Chris Paul and the other key starters played over 30 minutes including the final five minutes of the game.
The Pacers tightened their playing rotation, as well, including just nine players in the action. Mike Dunleavy was not available again which gives me pause since he's only played 12 minutes so far in the preseason and in that brief appearance displayed a noticeable limp. Hopefully he'll be ready to go next week.
As for the game, with both teams playing it straight, it was interesting to see how the Pacers played down the stretch in a tight game. With three minutes left in the game, Peja Stojakovic splashed a 3-ball to tie the game at 94. From there the Pacers key possessions went like this:
- Danny Granger offensive foul, turnover. Tyson Chandler makes 1 of 2 FTs at the other end, NO up 95-94.
- Rasho Nesterovic misses a little hook shot, David West misses at other end.
- Jarrett Jack feeds Rasho for a layup, Chandler and 1 (but misses FT) at other end, foul on Foster, NO up 97-96.
- Turnover Jeff Foster, Chandler makes a hook at other end, NO up 99-96.
- Granger 3-ball misses after being tipped by West, Granger gets it back and misses a 12-footer, Chris Paul misses 3-ball at the other end.
- Brandon Rush misses a 3-ball, Chris Paul fouled at the other end and makes 2 FTs, NO up 101-96.
- Troy Murphy misses a 3-ball, James Posey rebounds, BALL GAME.
Ack. The Pacers had a few chances to tie the game but just couldn't get the big bucket to drop. Granger shot the ball a little better tonight (6-15) and finished with 20 points but his shot wasn't there in crunch time. I'm real happy to see Brandon Rush step up and try to tie the game with 13 seconds left. Sure he missed, but he didn't back down from the moment. Great to see from the rookie.
Yes, the ending stunk but I did enjoy the fact that the Hornets gave the Pacers their best shot. If they were playing in the NBA Finals tonight the Hornets would've closed out the game with Paul, Posey, Chandler, West and Stojakovic just as they did tonight. So this was the ultimate test for the Pacers against an elite NBA team.
In contrast, the Pacers couldn't match the Hornets with their best available lineup. The P's closed out with Rasho, Foster, Granger, Rush and Jack. Dunleavy was out and T.J. Ford and Marquis Daniels weren't on the floor. Instead, JOB left Brandon Rush out there for a little baptism by fire. I figure he wanted to do the same with Roy Hibbert, but the big fella went down earlier in the fourth.
Hopefully, Hibbert can walk without too much pain when he wakes up tomorrow morning. Nothing halts the breath like a promising young big on the floor in pain. Up until the ankle twist (a tweak, really, certainly not a sprain, no tendon rippage, yep, I'm going with a little twist until informed otherwise *absorbs sinking feeling*) Roy was having another solid outing. I really would've liked to see if he could make it through crunch time without fouling out.
The NBA doesn't hand out moral victories but in the preseason what you learn holds far more value than the final score. JOB should find plenty of material to use from this game to reinforce the lessons he's trying to convey to his roster. Take care of the little things (like, say, turnovers) and you can play with the elite teams in the league. Make a few key plays and you can beat the elite. Repeat on a consistent basis and you can join the elite. As the Pacers trudge down the long path toward this goal, they have to learn from and build on the effort from nights like this one.