Tonight, with Troy Murphy still in Indy, Danny Granger was a late scratch after he dropped in warm-ups with a severe leg cramp. So, the Pacers were missing three starters on the road against a familiar team. All you can do is go to the next man and keep grinding. The Pacers did just that, escaping the Izod Center with a hard-earned 98-87 win.
It was no work of art, but like my kids' paintings, I'd proudly pin this W on the fridge. This whole team effort, selfless play, picking up your teammate thing the Pacers are doing is getting ridiculous. I mean, I couldn't be much more positive and after these last two Ws even I'm running out of syrup. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to hit Costco to store up on the bulk Log Cabin.
The plane flight home should be joyous after this team effort, as the Pacers once again, take care of their business. Here are some more thoughts on the win:
- First, for a little reality check, remember that New Jersey wasn't much better tonight than the Thunder on Monday night. Without Devin Harris, New Jersey turns into Vinny and the Nets, as Vince Carter takes on the bulk of the offensive load. If not for a pesky 2-3 zone the Nets used to slow down the Pacers the final score could've been much worse. The Nets also made late runs in the first and third quarters to stay within striking distance throughout the game.
- Injuries? Illness? No problem, just keep going down the bench and find another freshly-minted Pacer in blue and gold ready to step in without knocking the team off stride. With Granger out, Jim O'Brien turned to Brandon Rush for his first career start. Rush promptly drained a 3-ball for his first shot less than a minute into the game.
- Filling in for Rush's spot in the rotation, my man Stephen Graham saw his first action of the year and took advantage of the opportunity. Much like Josh McRoberts jumped into the fray on Monday night, Stevie was active and doing his part to pitch in, which included 12 points on a pair of threes and 6 of 6 from the line.
- The Pacers gave a strong defensive effort, forcing the Nets to settle for a ton of jumpers along with forcing 15 steals and 5 blocks. Again, this was everyone for the Pacers. Ten players played at least 12 minutes and all ten had at least one steal. For most of the night, all five players for Indiana were playing a step ahead of all five Nets. They simply outworked the Nets.
- T.J. Ford was spectacular once again controlling the tempo. For the third game in a row, T.J. just missed a triple-double finishing with 18 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.
- Jeff Foster scored in double-figures again (16 and 7) and stepped up to close out the game late. Twice in the final two minutes, Foster hit the offensive glass to knock a ball out and keep the possession alive. Both times he cashed in the possession with points including an and 1 put back after a Jarrett Jack miss.
- There were some wild lineup combinations on the floor at different points in the game with player combos I never thought we'd see together, let alone in a W. For instance, late in the first quarter Diener, Jack, Hibbert, McRoberts, and Graham were holding it down. Vegas would've never put odds on that group playing together in the first quarter of a November game.
- Speaking of crazy lineups, don't think these combos weren't productive. Early in the fourth, shot clock is starting to wind down. No one panics. Instead, Stephen Graham has the ball top of the arc to the right side. He feeds Hibbert creeping up from the low post. Hibbert turns takes a dribble to the hoop and drops a bounce pass to Foster after Jeff's man rotates to Roy. Layup. Buzzzz. Nets grab the ball out of the net. Think about that combo executing during a critical point in the game. Beautiful.
So beautiful, in fact, I think I'll stop here. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Feel free to add your favorite observations from the game in the comments.