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Mavericks 113, Pacers 92: Pacers Lose Battle After Enjoying Dunleavy's Return

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No one at the Fieldhouse will admit it, but the Indiana Pacers won before the opening tip against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.

Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger were both available to play, giving Jim O'Brien a full roster to work with for the first time this season. Prior to the game, JOB mentioned how he was very interested, along with Larry Bird, to see how all of the players they have will actually play together. Of course, JOB is interested in how they can play right now, while Bird is more interested in how each player fits into the future plans. But, tonight was the beginning of that valuable type of assessment.

Inevitably, the excitement of having all hands on deck subsided quickly when the Pacers played like it was the first time they played together all year.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks had offense oozing off of their bench and efficiently dispatched of the Pacers, 113-92. If Dirk Nowitzki wasn't pump-faking his way into a soft jumper for two, Jason Kidd was knocking down a three. J.J. Barea made sure the Mavs didn't skip a beat when he came off the bench and Jason "Jet" Terry made sure the shots kept falling.

And if the shots weren't falling for the Mavs, they just hit the glass. Drew Gooden, Shawn Marion and Kris Humphries in particular, saved a bunch of possessions for the Mavs to help bury the Pacers. As Jim O'Brien put it, the Pacers didn't play with any force and let the Mavs run roughshod after every loose ball and rebound available. Not only did the Mavs out-rebound the Pacers 54-33, but the visitors grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. The Pacers simply weren't tough enough where it counted in the middle.

Still, this wasn't a complete, sleep-walk type of game for the Pacers either, they were just outplayed and out-worked by a better team.

There was plenty of bounce and effort to start the game. For awhile the teams swapped buckets but when the jumpers stopped falling for the home team, the Mavs mounted a 22-point lead early in the second quarter.

A late surge fueled by some solid defense by the Pacers cut the lead to 10 before it settled at 12 for the half. Mike Dunleavy and Tyler Hansbrough were among the group closing out the half, and you couldn't help but wonder if this is they type of play JOB was hoping to see going forward. But the Mavs wouldn't relent. At one point, T.J. Ford was right in Terry's face, forcing him to lean and eventually throw up a shot from his hip. Naturally it went in and that is just how the game went.

The wheels fell off in the second half when the Pacers started turning the ball over and losing that bounce in their step. Jim O'Brien ended up trying about every available combination of players but nothing clicked in time to make a game of it. Interestingly, JOB started the second half with Dunleavy and Foster with Ford, Granger and Murphy.

Two turnovers during the group's first minute of play together ruined any hope for finding the magic JOB was looking for with his vets. Surely JOB is looking down the road with this group. If there is going to be any big boy NBA basketball played this year, this veteran group will need to get it done. Tonigh, though, they were just done. In fact, Brandon Rush relieved Jeff Foster shortly after the second turnover as JOB continued shuffling through his available combos. The small-ball effort didn't work either.

So the Pacers were killed on the glass and nuked by a lethal offensive team. These are the facts of this one game, but the night remained a fresh start for the Pacers. A chance to begin looking for ways to win this year and more importantly, figuring out what options the team has for the future and which players they want to take with them.

More observations:

  • Mike Dunleavy checked into the game with 3:02 left first quarter and on the first offensive possession he cut to the hoop when his defender denied him the ball on the wing. Jeff Foster hit him with a nice pass and Dunleavy finished the bucket like he'd been playing for months. After that he missed a couple of jumpers, but that had nothing to do with his knee. On his next attempt, he scrapped the jumper and employed a spin move into traffic that drew a foul and two free throws which he converted.
  • Danny Granger made it through without any more harm to his left knee and felt he'd be ready to go on the West Coast trip starting Monday. Granger had 15 points at the half, but came up scoreless in the third quarter when the Mavs ran and hid.
  • Troy Murphy struggled all night and exemplified the Pacers rebounding woes by grabbing a paltry two rebounds in his 27 minutes.
  • Jim O'Brien literally used a whole second unit with Dunleavy and Granger available. He cycled through the starters and at one point had a fresh five off the bench playing together in the first quarter. Against a talented rosters like the Mavs, rolling out fresh legs could give the Pacers an advantage. Could. Not tonight. JOB eventually used all 12 available players in nearly every combination imaginable.
  • Tyler Hansbrough played a solid stretch late in the first half when the Pacers dug into the lead. In the third quarter he wound up bruising his knee when he was caught up in a scrum. Normally he leaves others in pain, but this time he left the game and didn't return.
  • Dirk Nowitzki didn't bother to even shoot a three-pointer tonight. Once he jump-started the Mavs, the All-Star cruised home with 31 points on a mere 14 shots.
  • The Mavs bench made a big difference tonight, as well. Jason Terry is a personal favorite and was up to his normal tricks with 17 points, 3 assists, 2 steals and no turnovers. Kris Humphries and James Singleton out-worked the Pacers on the glass all night combining for 21 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end.