Let the roar about the replacement refs begin.
In an overseas game meant to showcase NBA stars and talent, the replacement referees called a whopping six technical fouls during the Indiana Pacers 128-112 loss against the Nuggets in Beijing, China last night. Two of those technical fouls went against Pacers star Danny Granger, who struggled with foul trouble in the first half before being ejected while arguing a call during the second quarter.
The loss of Granger allowed Carmelo Anthony to run wild in the Pacers' defense. In 24 minutes of play, Anthony unloaded 45 points on 14-of-19 shooting from the field, while also draining the freebies at the line, making 16-of-17 behind the charity stripe.
The refs called technicals on both coaches, Chauncey Billups, Chris Anderson and Dahntay Jones, while also calling 67 fouls on both teams. The Pacers, however, received the short end of the stick as they were whistled for 41 of the 67 calls. The errant and loose whistles kept both teams from finding a smooth tempo, while also drastically slowing down a meeting of two of the faster squads in the league.
Granger picked up two fouls early, forcing him to sit on the bench five minutes into the first half before checking back in during the second quarter. After draining a foot on-the-line 3-pointer, Granger picked up a touch foul on the other end and was immediately handed a technical. When he didn't stop arguing the call while walking toward the bench, the refs cordially gift wrapped a second tech and sent him to the locker room.
The Pacers and Nuggets were even early as Roy Hibbert carried the Pacers' offense in the low and high post as he finished the game with a team-high 21 points and nine rebounds. But after tying the game at 57-57 in the final seconds of the first half, the Nuggets went full throttle and took control.
In another stereotypical third quarter for Indiana, the Pacers allowed Denver to flourish during a 32-11 run to start the third. Denver finished with 39-third quarter points. Without Granger on the court, the Pacers couldn't recover.
Plenty of notes and player observations from this one after the jump.
- Granger, T.J. Ford, Brandon Rush, Hibbert and Troy Murphy started for the Pacers last night. Sitting out for the blue and gold were Travis Diener (toe), Jeff Foster (back), Luther Head (back), Tyler Hansbrough (shin) and Mike Dunleavy (everything).
- Hibbert stole the show for the Pacers last night. It was obvious that this trip had finally taken a toll on many of the players, on both teams, as defensive assignment's crumbled easily and may players looked about half-asleep as they walked around the court. But Hibbert was all over the place. In an homage to the Rik Smits' days of Pacers history, the team came out early and repeatedly fed the big man down low to help get things going early. It worked. You can really tell that he worked ridiculously hard on picking up some new post moves over the summer. If Hibby can just stay in the game and out of foul trouble, he's going to have a good year. Granted, he did his damage last night against an undersized Denver frontline. But his 21 points, nine boards and four block shots still looked fantastic and his ability to run up-and-down both sides of floor was only matched by Anthony.
- The point guard play for the Pacers wasn't the best last night. Ford, Earl Watson and A.J. Price routinely would penetrate into the lane and then whimsically throw the ball back out to the perimeter to a hungry Nuggets defender. Watson, in particular, focused more on making crisp passes around the perimeter rather than forcing bad plays in the Nuggets post defense.
- Josh McRoberts had another high-flying dunk off of a fastbreak in the first half. Although it's the same dunk we've seen in each of the other preseason games. Take off from the free-throw line, McBob's! Do a 360! We're expecting more now that you've wet our appetites for your destruction at the rim.
- Joining Chris Denari in the booth last night were team general manager David Morway (who should stick to his real job), Mike Dunleavy (dressed in a wonderful mustard jacket), Travis Deiner and Slick Leonard. Dunleavy was mum on any new info about his return from his injury.
- Denver shot a solid 46.5 percent from the field. The Pacers' D was a step behind from the get-go. The discrepancy in fouls against the Pacers wasn't all on the fault of the refs. Players were frequently left in the dust by Denver's explosive offense, leaving players reaching, grabbing and swatting at anything they could to keep Denver from getting easy lay-ups. Jim O'Brien talked before the game about the Pacers terrific defensive effort in the first game in Taiwan. Apparently that defense missed the flight to China.
- Solomon Jones had a quiet 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. I honestly can't remember a single play involving Jones. Moving on.
- Brandon Rush did a nice job of getting to the free-throw line early to help make up for the loss of Granger's scoring. Rush finished with 14 points.
- Unlike in Taiwan, which was 2,000 short of a sell-out crowd, the Chinese arena was filled to the brim and with a lot of Pacers fans. It was also really fun watching an NBA game that didn't include a single sound effect, or in-game music, or any of the "clown" music that sometimes makes it way out of the music machine at Conseco "Reggie Miller" Fieldhouse. It was weird at first hearing it so quiet and empty, but it really grew on me quickly. Like Swine Flu, but in a good way.
- Dahntay Jones fouled out for the second straight game after totaling 22 minutes and garnering six points. Pressure defense comes with a price, and it looks like he'll be facing foul trouble a lot this season. Fortunately for Rush, that could be what helps him keep his starting job when the season opens.
- Murphy totaled up another double-double. He nabbed 11 points and 10 rebounds. It was a characteristic Murphy game where he sat around the perimeter and always seemed to be in the right place for rebounds.
Well that closes the overseas trip for the Pacers during this preseason. If you're looking to catch the Pacers in action before the season-opener, you'll have to do it in person as no other preseason contests will be televised. The next game is Friday against Houston at 7 p.m. It's the last "home" game of the preseason.