Rookie Brandon Rush had another big game, matching his career-high (achieved yesterday) with 29 points, and this time the Pacers were able to cash in the great effort with a win over the Washington Wizards, 124-115.
Considering April is in plain view and the playoffs are fading in the rear view for both of these teams, there was nothing else to focus on but the game at hand. In early February, the Pacers dropped a two-point loss to the Wizards simply because they had no answer for Antwan Jamison and Caron Butler.
In that game, Butler hit the game-winner at the buzzer which gave the duo a combined 69 points for the game. As Mark Boyle mentioned in tonight's broadcast, this time the Pacers "held" Butler and Jamison to 60 points and those 9 fewer points were the difference this time.
Plus, this time the Pacers had an answer for Butler and Jamison as Danny Granger added 31 points to Rush's 29 to match the Wizards' scorers point-for-point. Granger had a real efficient scoring night with his 31 coming on 10-16 shooting night.
It may sound strange, but Rush's impact at the offensive end freed up Granger more than usual. Because Rush can get open shots with relative ease and he made more than he missed, the Wizards had to continually account for him. So, much like yesterday, Granger was able to play without being sole focus of the opponent's defense.
Yes, the Pacers struggled to put away the Wizards, but I applaud the full team effort considering the let down of the loss in Chicago yesterday. There's no doubt this team will finish as strong as they're capable and keeping an eye on the newly minted scoring duo of Granger and Rush for the remaining game makes watching remain fun.
A few other thoughts:
- Back to Brandon Rush for a moment. He finished with 10 rebounds to go with the 29 points, but forget the points and even every made or missed shot -- the rook is playing. He's reacting on instinct, letting his game flow and showing little to no hesitation which had mucked up his game earlier in the season. Yes, Rush made some perimeter shots but he also had a few dunks. Personally, I enjoyed a few of his mid-range shots in traffic. Body in control, actually shooting to make instead of to quickly get it out of his hands. Major league game for anyone, let alone a rookie hampered by confidence problems. Here's to hoping those problems are in the past.
- One of Rush's dunks came on a real nice transition bucket, as Jarrett Jack appeared ready to force a layup but quickly tossed it back to the trailing Rush for an everybody-out-of-your-seats dunk.
- Speaking of Jack, he offered up a real solid, under the radar game with 19 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds with 0 turnovers.
- Big ups to T.J. Ford for keep;ing his head up while coming off the bench and simply producing. Ford played more than 33 minutes and contributed 8 points and 10 assists.
- Ford did have 4 turnovers but as a team the Pacers only coughed up the ball 9 times. Danny Granger had the other 5 turnovers.
- Roy Hibbert had an interesting game which can't be gleaned from the box score. He finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds while fouling out in only 16 minutes. Yet, when he fouled out, the Conseco Fieldhouse faithful gave the rook a standing ovation for his effort on the court. Hibbert did have several nice offensive buckets and was more demonstrative than usual.
- Rasho Nesterovic gave a nice lift off the bench in the first half and ended the game with 10 points. Troy Murphy and Marquis Daniels were both out again.