Not to whine, but this year has been far tougher on Pacer fans than on the Pacers themselves. There are more jokes about the Pacers' on and off court foibles than the team has wins. You find yourself in a conversation with a casual fan and realize the die hard fans around town are few and far between. The casual fan's perception of the team is far worse than reality but when you stop following the team closely, the only news that sticks out is the negative.
And then there's the actual games. We die hard Pacer fans have had to endure our fair share of ugly performances over the past few weeks. Heading into Sunday's game against the Bulls, the Pacers had lost 12 of 14 games. Most of those losses made you want to cover your eyes at times or shut the TV off altogether. Even the two wins, while fun and well-played by the Pacers, were blow outs, thus not exactly exciting.
So, on Sunday with the Pacers in the midst of their last push for a playoff spot, playing Central Division rival Chicago, what do you think happens? Well, naturally there's no TV coverage of the game. The way the Pacers have played lately that could be considered a gift to the Pacer fan, but not today. The game only turned out to be one of the best games of the year, despite producing a familiar outcome with the Pacers losing 92-90.
Jermaine O'Neal has been struggling lately to just play, but J.O. dug deep Sunday for a career game, going blow for blow down the stretch with Ben Gordon. J.O. finished with 39 points and 14 rebounds, simply carrying the Pacers down the stretch. His rushed shot at the buzzer failed to tie the game which put the only tarnish on his day. Since I didn't actually see the game, here's a recap.
Ben Gordon lit up the Pacers for 31 points, including what turned out to be the game winner with 2.8 seconds left. From radio reports and recaps, Gordon's game winner was a tough, well-defended fade away. Hopefully SportsCenter get's a bootleg highlight so we can see it for ourselves.
Mike Dunleavy had another solid game, pitching in 23 points on 9-15 from the floor. Doesn't appear he was anywhere to be found down the stretch, but I can't complain about his production.
Danny Granger and Jamaal Tinsley weren't able to pitch in much offense at all, which makes the solid game by O'Neal even more impressive. He almost single-handedly won the game.
Another tough day for the Pacers, but this game shows that the team continues to work and bring effort which takes some heart and resolve at this point. Next up, LeBron and the Cavs come to the Fieldhouse on Tuesday. No, it doesn't get any easier.