The short-handed Indiana Pacers started working from the opening tip and never stopped grinding until they had finally seized a sloppy, but well-earned, opening night win against the Washington Wizards. After what appeared to be a lethal kick in the gut by Gilbert Arenas to send the game into overtime, the Pacers regrouped and finally put the Wiz away, 119-110.
The Pacers showed plenty of good, a little too much bad, and enjoyed a little luck throughout the game. But, with Jermaine O'Neal and Troy Murphy suited and booted on the bench, and Shawne Williams serving the first game of his three game suspension, the Pacers relied on a full team effort to get the W.
- Eight first quarter turnovers and a bunch of missed open looks, allowed the Wiz to hang around until Arenas, Jamison, and Butler were able to get their rhythm going and make things difficult.
- Brendan Haywood destroyed the Pacers on the glass, especially in the first half. He ended the game with 11 offensive rebounds and it seemed like he had 20. Ike Diogu just didn't have the size to do anything with him. Haywood also drew plenty of fouls on Ike, Foster, and Harrison.
- Team health was not good. Haywood had is way in the middle thanks to J.O. and Murph sitting out the game. Foul trouble pressed newly signed Courtney Sims into action. BTW, the blank name in the box score is for Sims.
- Easier said than done, but with a three point lead and 6 seconds left in regulation, how does Gilbert Arenas get a 3-ball attempt off? Did anyone think he wouldn't make it?
- David Harrison gets top billing for giving us the best game of his career. The NBA boxes now include a +/- number and Harrison's +28 seems about right. He excelled in all the areas that often trip him up. 31 plus minutes and DH didn't foul out? Serious progress. Still played solid D, collecting 3 blocks and 4 steals. Made all 5 of his free throw attempts including critical freebies with the game in the balance. This performance defines stepping up.
- To get a W and still see several flaws in the game is encouraging. At two points in the game I had a sinking feeling that all the good would unravel into a familiar script of past losses. At the start of the second half, Arenas and Jamison came out smoking and looked ready to seize the game by its throat. The Pacers had nothing to match that firepower. Uh-oh, right? Also, after Arenas knocked the air out of the building to send the game into overtime, there was a brief shoulder slump. Both times, the staggered Pacers, didn't fall down, but solidified their footing and kept fighting back until they took the advantage again.
- Jamaal Tinsley had a rough night going into the fourth quarter, but midway through the fourth quarter he hit consecutive 3s and took control of the offense the rest of the way, making 5 of his last 7 shots to finish with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
- The Pacers lobbed up 29 3-balls. 29! They made 13, including 8 from Granger (5) and Dunleavy (3).
- Mike Dunleavy continued the strong play he showed in the preseason finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Most of those boards were defensive which is nice, since Dun can really get the ball moving up court when he grabs the rebound.
- There's no gentle way to put it, Jim O'Brien coached his ass off. 11 Pacers played in the first half as the Pacers dealt with foul and fatigue issues. Saving those minutes early in the game, didn't hurt when the starters had to go to OT.
- For the last half of the third quarter, O'B had Granger, Harrison, Kareem Rush, Travis Diener, and Andre Owens playing at the same time. Not for a couple of possessions, but for at least six minutes. This turned out to be another critical move, because this group kept the pace frenetic and didn't end up losing any ground. I mean, look at that combo. Are you kidding me? To get that kind of production from that group, ON OPENING NIGHT, is stunning.
- Big ups to the Wiz for missing several free throws, especially at crunch time. Arenas and Butler combined to miss 10 freebies. I'd like to think they were worn down from the Pacers going 11 deep to keep the pace moving, but in reality, this was just some good fortune that oftentimes pitches in to deliver an NBA W.
Next game: Miami Heat at the Fieldhouse