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IC Cold Links: Watson, Jones Given Vote Of Confidence By Coach

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Earl Watson and Dahntay Jones were handed starting jobs against the Spurs on Saturday as a gesture for how well the two have played off the bench. It was also made to give the Pacers a chance at an upset in San Antonio. It almost worked.

After taking over the spots of T.J. Ford and Brandon Rush, the new starting backcourt were asked to do what they do best -- bring energy and defensive toughness to the starting unit. Although the two didn't produce glamorous offensive stats (and Ford finished the fourth quarter on the court), the duo helped the starting unit keep up with the Spurs' starters, only being outscored by two points. It was a far cry from the 100-54 lashing that the starters gave up to Memphis on Friday.

Coach Jim O'Brien explained his reasoning to the Indy Star before the game: "Earl deserves a look. We're trying to change some things up. He has the best plus-minus on the team. We're starting Dahntay because we want to start the game with as much defensive toughness as we can. [Watson] deserves a very, very solid look because the difference he makes off the bench is a dramatic one. Now he's playing against the other team's second unit. We understand that. We'll see how he does in the starting lineup."

Ford and Rush both benefited from playing against the Spurs' second string, while also playing with slashers and passers such as Mike Dunleavy and Tyler Hansbrough on the bench. In the Pacers' 100-99 loss, Watson had three points on 1-for-5 shooting and five assists, while Ford tossed in 14 points with five assists. Jones scored three points on free throws, while Rush went 4-for-8 for nine points in 28 minutes.

The ultimate stat, however, is that this lineup was able to come within one point of taking down the Spurs in San Antonio. After the shellacking that took place in Memphis, something needed to happen to spice up this team. We'll get a chance to see if JOB sticks with his new starting backcourt when the blue and gold return home to play the Bucks on Monday.

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