Looks like the Pacers offense is finally coming around.
After struggling to find their offensive rhythm early in the season, the rested Indiana Pacers were ready to go from the tip tonight and put forth a memorable effort, beating the road-weary Denver Nuggets, 144-113.
There were plenty of key moments and outstanding contributions that led to the easy win, but the third quarter barrage turned in by the Pacers won't soon be forgotten. Six different Pacers combined to make the first 20 shots of the quarter, with the only blemish from the field coming on a missed 3-ball by Josh McRoberts with two seconds left in the quarter.
After the game, McRoberts mentioned that the players had no idea they were perfect from the field and he might've pump faked and passed to Dunleavy had he known. Still, he said it was a good record to screw up.
This was no layup line, either as the Pacers made eight 3-pointers, along with Mike Dunleavy drawing two shooting fouls from behind the arc. Dunleavy went absolutely bonkers to lead the way with 24 third-quarter points, knocking down shots from all around the arc. Those 24 points just fueled the fire for the Pacers as they finished with 54 points in the third quarter alone.
20 of 21 from the field for 54 points? Yeah, that's pretty efficient offense.
All of the numbers from this game are crazy. I find myself staring at the box score like a Cézanne at the Louvre.
Those numbers also emphasize that third quarter knock out was set up by some great play at both ends of the floor along the way. While Mike Dunleavy caught fire in the third, it was simply his turn as the Pacers shared the load all night, with Danny Granger getting going early, Darren Collison taking his turn, then Brandon Rush quickly making his presence felt.
One after the other, players came in and took their turn, pitching in to wear out the Nuggets and set up the second-half route. The ball movement on offense created tons of great shots for the Pacers while making the Nuggets feel their tired legs.
After the jump, more thoughts and observations giving everyone their due for the Pacers' feel-good win.
- Darren Collison and Danny Granger not only scored the first two buckets of the game for the Pacers but they really came out and set the tone. They were active and assertive, and while no one could miss in the third quarter, DC and DG seemed to be the only players who could make any shots in the first. Lot of perimeter shots clanked, including a few from Mike Dunleavy. Obviously, Dun was getting them out of his system for his heroics later in the game.
- Granger has his shot going tonight and likely would've gone off for 30-plus, if needed. But with all of his friends pitching in, Granger was able to cruise home, only playing 27 minutes while making 8 of 10 shots to finish with 19 points. He also had 5 assists and played a part in some solid defense by the Pacers.
- Offense wins the day, but the Pacers defensive effort was strong tonight as Josh McRoberts and Roy Hibbert did a nice job of protecting and everyone hit the glass. Yes, Denver put up 113 points but the 37-point fourth quarter was pure garbage time as both teams exhaled after things were decided in the third.
- Brandon Rush asserted himself instantly when he played for the first time this season midway through the first quarter. After Dunleavy's slow start, Rush appeared to have seized the starting shooting guard spot with his quick offensive outburst which included finishing three shots at the rim. Of course, Dunleavy would have something to say about that later. Rush finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds which looks mighty fine coming off the bench.
- Dunleavy finished with 31 points, knocking down 6 of 10 3-balls while making all 3 of his other shots inside the arc. Dunleavy benefits more than anyone else on the team from all of the ball and player movement.
- Darren Collison absolutely wore out Chauncey Billups and Ty Lawson. DC finished with 29 points and 6 assists. He also made 4 of 5 3-balls although the one miss was a long bomb at the end of regulation which ensured the game clock would run out. As the Pacers were making their third quarter push, Collison swiped a bounce pass from Billups. DC took a couple of slow dribbles before hitting the jets and taking off. You could see Billups' body language scream, "No! Don't make me run to the other end!"
- Josh McRoberts only scored 2 points but was very active at both ends pitching in 5 assists and 10 rebounds. J-Mac slid over to back up Roy Hibbert at center instead of Solo Jones, playing alongside Tyler Hansbrough. Solo may not see many minutes, although he did play the role of victory cigar, getting some run in the fourth quarter.
- Hansbrough did his part to produce for the second unit. He finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. His 6 offensive rebounds brought back memories of a healthy, feisty Jeff Foster keeping possessions alive.
- Roy Hibbert struggled early trying to find his offensive rhythm in the paint, but stuck with it and was able to join in the offensive fireworks finishing with 17 points and 6 rebounds. He also had 3 blocks highlighted be stuffing a dunk attempt by Shelden Williams. The big fella made his presence felt around the rim tonight.
- Carmelo Anthony never got it going and cashed it in early, finishing with 15 points for the Nuggets. Once the Pacers asserted themselves in the third quarter, Denver had an eye on that plane waiting to take them home to complete their road trip.
- Hopefully the Pacers saved a few buckets for Friday night when they take on the visiting Houston Rockets.