Maybe it has to do with lingering feelings for the Chicago Bulls or the mood of the game feeling like a regular season affair as the Indiana Pacers cut their double digit deficit to single numbers time and time again, making one last push late in the fourth quarter, that made tonight's loss ache a little bit.
Call it a mini-heartbreaker.
David West led the way for the Pacers to pull Indiana, playing a road game in South Bend, Indiana, under the seven point wall that had kept getting ballooned up thanks to Nate Robinson and the Bulls. Boy, it was frustrating. All night. The Pacers were down double figures before you could sit down and relax, fueled by Chicago owning the offensive glass, put back after excruciating put back. But despite getting outscored by the Bulls by 24-5 in second chance points late in the game, the Pacers found themselves breaking through the seven point wall.
The opportunities were absolutely there. Chicago suddenly went cold. Not just brick cold; the Bulls could've probably stood for a few bricks, but a galore of airballs and side of the backboard shots. It was upsetting at how poorly the Pacers responded at that juncture, settling for long jumpers, stagnant ball movement, all limited to one possession. Yet, David West was there, capping off a three point play to make the game a manageable 93-90 deficit. Richard Hamilton would unfortunately escape Gerald Green on a pick, sinking the dagger and closing out the at-least-no-one-will-remember-this-outcome winner. It would've been nice to win though.
Green struggled away from the basket. He offered up some highlights at the rim, but overmatched by Luol Deng and failing to keep up with Hamilton, while being unable to find anything with his jumper, all totaled up to a game he'd rather have back. It was the weakest showcase from Green in the preseason. Ian Mahinmi on the other hand, continues to see his stock rising after a 14 point effort where the Bulls bigs had no answer.
Roy Hibbert, who led the Pacers with 17, also had the same luxury. The two didn't share the floor tonight, but each anchored the center position for the Pacers, in what is quickly becoming perhaps Indiana's most stable position. D.J. Augustin pulled a double double tonight with 10 points and 13 assists, making a lot of movement early. Danny Granger wasn't quite the game changer he was in Cleveland, but played well again before looking a little sluggish late in his minutes. If he was able to go for the final stretch, who's to say the Pacers can't get a better run than what they had.
Lance Stephenson followed up his solid effort against the Cavs with an 0-fer tonight with a pair of assists, showing that Lance is still game to game. He struggled in his defensive matchups against Hamilton and Robinson, neither a favorable matchup for Stephenson anyway. Well...? Ben Hansbrough got a short run in the first quarter as a nod to the Notre Dame faithful, ending his night with a 5 trillion.
With the 2012 preseason reaching its conclusion, the Pacers will reset their 4-3 record to 0-0, opening the regular season Halloween night in Toronto to face the Raptors. The regular season begins, Pacers fans!