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.
Check out the jump for more links.
- Box Score
- AP Story
- NBA.com Recap
- The Pacers Inside the Game post recaps the highlights and stats of the Pacers loss in San Antonio. T.J. Ford gave the following quote after the game about his potential game-winning basket: "You're going to make some and you're going to miss some. The coaches and my teammates have the belief that I can get that shot off. I got it up...I had the opportunity...but it just fell short."
- Jeff Rabjohns reported from Texas about the Pacers missing a big opportunity to topple one of the league's best franchises.
- In his Indy Star notebook, Rabjohns tackles Roy Hibbert's big game against Tim Duncan, local star George Hill's play with the Spurs, and Jeff Foster's return to Texas.
- The San Antonio News-Express recaps the game from the Spurs' perspective. Also, check out the massive game thread over at SB Nation's Pounding the Rock.
- Jared Wade offers up an interview about the Pacers for Project Spurs as a preview for Saturday's game. You can check out the first couple of questions at Eight Points, Nine Seconds.
Troy Murphy is being linked to some trade rumors featured here on Cleveland.com.
- Fox Sports' Charley Rosen conducts an analysis of the Pacers' roster after their loss to the Grizzlies. Final analysis: good guys, bad team.
- The New York Post follows Jonathan Bender's triumphant return to the NBA with the Knicks. Bender had nine points, two rebounds and one blocked shot in helping New York's second unit overcome a huge deficit.