Winning is fun, remember?
Forget the opponent though, the Pacers ended their own struggles by winning for the first time in six games and just the second time in their past 12. Plus, the way the Pacers played and the players that stepped up to put away the win was a welcome sight for Jim O'Brien.
Once again, the Pacers second unit provided the spark the Pacers needed to take control of the game early. In particular, Earl Watson, Mike Dunleavy and Tyler Hansbrough worked well together while pushing the Pacers out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter.
The first unit kept the flow going to start the second half and after the bench continued their solid play it became apparent the Pacers' were headed for a win. Shots were falling, offensive rebounds were plentiful and nothing was coming easy for the Nets. In fact, Rafer Alston's three-pointer was the only bucket New Jersey scored in a ten minute stretch covering the end of the third quarter and early fourth.
Shortly after the New Jersey drought, Roy Hibbertended any doubt in the Fieldhouse that this was the Pacers' night, when he beat the shot clock with a 3-ball (in rhythm, nice stroke, the whole thing) to put the Pacers up 21 points with about eight minutes left.
No lead is ever big enough with the Pacers, but against the Nets that would be enough on this night.
More thoughts and observations on the Pacers' win:
- Consider that without Danny Granger's 25 points per game and Dahntay Jones only scoring five, ten below his 15 point per game average, the Pacers were still able to score 107 points and cruise to a 16-point win. Five Pacers scored in double figures to fill the scoring void.
- Roy Hibbert finished with 20 points on his 23rd birthday which exceeded the 18 points he scored in the previous three games combined. Roy had that energetic bounce to his game that seems to lift the spirits of the whole team. Hibby also finished with 3 blocks and 9 rebounds, including 7 second-chance boards which helped earn him some easy buckets.
- Tyler Hansbrough took full advantage of his minutes limit rising to 24 minutes. He used up all of the minutes to score a game-high and career-high 21 points. He too worked the offensive glass, with 4 of his 7 rebounds at the offensive end. Hansbrough held up well defensively with three steals while guarding everyone from Brook Lopez to Chris Douglas-Roberts.
- Earl Watson was solid off the bench at the point making things go for the second unit without needing to take many shots. His +22 on the night reveals his effectiveness, especially compared to another up and down performance from T.J. Ford. The downside of Watson's great play was that A.J. Price didn't get any minutes. Hard to blame JOB on this night because Watson was playing well and the team desperately needed a win.
- Mike Dunleavy also had his minutes limit boosted to 24 and he was available for most of the fourth quarter. Dunleavy played 21 minutes and pumped in an efficient 15 points with a nice stroke going on his perimeter shot. Dunleavy made all three of his 3-ball attempts and continued to keep that second unit in motion.
- Brandon Rush played a ton of minutes thanks to his defensive effort. He also chipped in 10 points and 8 rebounds with a few nice buckets. There were also a handful of possessions I'm sure he'd like to do over.
- Dahntay Jones had a real interesting game, as well. He was on the court quite a bit, but with things going well offensively for the team he never gave into the temptation to pad his scoring average. In fact, Dahntay only took four shots on the night, instead settling in to chase around the Nets' dangerous guard duo of Devin Harris and Courtney Lee.
- Speaking of Devin Harris, I was surprised to see him in a heated discussion with Rod Thorn in the tunnel outside the Nets' locker room at halftime. Not sure exactly what the discussion was about, but I don't think he and Rafer Alston are on the same page.
- Troy Murphyalso had an efficient night with 15 points and 12 rebounds on just 7 FGAs. Before the game he also expressed his happiness with Brian Kelly taking over as Notre Dame's football coach. Acknowledging that Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops weren't leaving their gigs, he figures Kelly was the best the Domers could do, so he's keeping the faith.
- Prior to the game, the Pacers announced that Reggie Miller will be at the Fieldhouse on Tuesday to make a major announcement to benefit the Pacers Foundation, The People's Burn Foundation/Brave Hearts Camp and Riley Hospital for Children Pediatric Burn Unit. Sounds like Reggie will be showing his hero chops in Indy once again. Wonder if a '3' will be included in the final numbers.