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Pacers 126, Nuggets 104: Pacers Come Out Ready To Play In Taipei

If you're going to fly 17 hours to play a basketball game you might as well play well.

The Indiana Pacers did just that on Thursday from Taipei, Taiwan when they mixed a fast-paced offense with some strong defensive pressure to put away the Denver Nuggets 126-104.

This effort had to make Jim O'Brien proud since his team backed up the coach's claim that the Pacers can play tough pressure defense while maintaining a high-powered offensive attack.

Pressure and pace were the two keys to success in Taipei. Of course, it helped that the Denver Nuggets are a team that doesn't shy away from running so maintaining a break-neck pace was not a problem. The Pacers were able to make things tough on the Nuggets by pressuring the ball and challenging shots, then chasing down rebounds to fuel the offense going the other way.

This was a great preseason preview of how the Pacers hope to play this year. It was far from error-free (25 turnovers) but continuing to work at both ends of the floor helped the team make more than enough plays to overcome any problems.

Unlike the game against Chicago, the Pacers were able to back up a strong second half with an ever stronger third quarter, which we know has always been a problem. Instead of letting the Nuggets back in the game, the Pacers put the game away in the third making the fourth a comfortable playground for the young and/or bench players on the roster.

Plenty of notes and player observations from this one after the jump.

  • First of all, if you missed the early morning broadcast, enjoy the replay on Fox Sports Indiana tonight at 7:00PM.
  • The Pacers jumped out to an early nine point lead thanks to the three-ball. Danny Granger hit two and Brandon Rush hit one in the first three minutes which turned out to be an indicator of more to come. The Pacers would finish the game shooting 16-35 from behind the arc. On the other end, the Nuggets only squeezed off nine threes for the whole game.
  • If the Pacers can produce offensively like they did in this one while applying the same pressure on defense, they can wear out opposing teams over the course of a regular game. Kenyon Martin was sucking wind at one point early in the game for the Nuggets trying to keep up with the action. The Nuggets only shot 37.8% from the field compared to the Pacers 52.5%.
  • Danny Granger came out hot and ignited the Pacers and the crowd with 8 quick points including the two threes. From there all of his highlights were on the defensive end where he gave Carmelo Anthonysome fits, forcing him into a couple of turnovers. Melo finished with 17 points but few were in the face of Granger's defense. Granger only played 19 minutes so it will be interesting to see if he can keep that effort up in a normal game.
  • T.J. Ford played with nearly everyone on the roster and played real well. Go ahead and freak out about the 6 turnovers, but T.J. made far more plays than he gave up. He also held up well defensively against Chauncey Billups. At different times in the game, T.J.'s backcourt running mates included: Brandon Rush, Earl Watson, Dhantay Jones and A.J. Price. Looks like JOB is getting plenty of small-ball looks on tape. Of Ford's six turnovers about half were of the maddening, head-scratching, what-was-he-thinking variety (jumping behind the back toss that missed Murph at the top of the key?), but he also had some sweet dimes among his 10 assists.
  • Roy Hibbert came off the bench again, but delivered a huge performance. First of all, Hibbert played 32 minutes and only had TWO fouls. That's a win on its own, but Hibbert took advantage of his court time by pumping in 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and swatting 8 shots. After the game, Jeff Fostercongratulated Hibbert by telling him to bring this type of game consistently.
  • Speaking of Foster, he sat out with a sore back along with Tyler Hansbrough, Mike Dunleavy, Travis Diener and Luther Head. Not sure why Luther was in street clothes.
  • Back to the players. Troy Murphy played his first extended minutes, logging over 23 minutes and knocking down four 3-balls en route to 20 points and 8 rebounds. He also had three assists, doing his part to keep the ball moving on offense.
  • Brandon Rush had the shooting stroke going, joining Hibbert and Murph in the 20-point club. Six threes pushed up that point total as Rush played a lot of small forward as part of various lineups throughout the game.
  • JOB kept riding Hibbert so Solomon Jones only played 15 minutes and had 5 fouls while on the floor. He had a few nice plays but never had time to get into the flow of the game.
  • Earl Watson made a strong debut for the Pacers. I wasn't planning on Watson replacing Jarrett Jack completely, but I may have to reconsider. Watson played a lot with T.J. Ford and he has a much more controlled game than Jack. His long arms help him get his hands in the passing lanes on defense. Watson finished with 10 points and 3 steals, looking real steady on the floor especially for his first appearance with the Pacers.
  • Dahntay Jones fouled out in 18 minutes thanks to his hyper-aggressive play against his old mates. Still, Jones brought great energy to the floor and made some nice plays to finish with 12 points and 4 rebounds.
  • Rounding out the Pacers depth were Josh McRobertsand A.J. Price. Both looked plenty comfortable on the floor in Taipei, doing far more good than bad. Price really looked like the second-round steal of the draft JOB thinks he has. After going ofer in his debut at the Fieldhouse, Price shot 6-9 from the field including 4-6 from 3-land. He finished with 16 points and 4 assists.
  • The atmosphere in the arena was electric which surely helped raised the energy level of the players on the floor. The crowd went crazy for 3-balls and dunks. They also went nuts when Chris "Birdman" Andersen took the court for the first time.
  • Larry Bird joined Chris Denari on the broadcast in the first quarter. Denari mentioned watching Hansbrough working out prior to the game, but Bird stuck with the same expectation that they hope to have him on the court by the end of camp.
  • Speaking of Denari, he did a great job working as play-by-play man/talk show host with Bird, Jeff Foster, Fox Sports GM and Sam Perkins joining him throughout the game.