I want to believe. Really, I do.
After such a great effort against the NBA elite Orlando Magic, fueled by developing second-year players Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush, I'd love to think this is something more than an aberration.
But we've seen these outburst of great basketball before, only to be thumped back to reality by a losing streak. So as exciting as this win was tonight, and it was a fun one, I'll hold out for a repeat or four and better yet, a consistent effort from the team and star individuals we watched tonight.
With disclaimer firmly in place, what we saw tonight was the Indiana Pacers taking advantage of a seemingly disinterested Magic team early. Once the Magic awoke and tried to flip the switch, the Pacers continually pushed them back until there was no response left from the visitors, securing a much-needed home win for the Pacers, 97-90.
Roy Hibbert was a monster from the opening tip and stayed strong throughout the game. He scored 12 of the Pacers first 14 points and had Dwight Howard on the bench with two fouls less than three minutes into the game.
Hibbert then put the game away when he drew Howard's sixth foul with just under two minutes left, then put the Pacers up by 12. Hibbert finished with a career-high 26 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in 35 minutes. Things went so well for Roy that he didn't pick up his first foul until the fourth quarter.
That was when the Magic were trying to claw back by feeding Howard inside. The Pacers were intent on letting Howard beat them from the line which he was unable to do. Howard didn't shoot a free throw until the fourth quarter and then made just 7 of 12 attempts.
The Pacers didn't play their best game of the season. Compared to New York, they were torching the nets, but in reality they only shot 43% from the floor. At times it felt like they were up double-digits but were never ahead comfortably until late in the game.
Regardless it was the Pacers' night. A night when they gutted through a comeback from a tough team to make the necessary plays to secure a win. Let's just hope we see similar nights in the days ahead.
More thoughts after the jump:
- Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard and Vince Carter COMBINED to shoot 6 for 29 from the floor for 21 points. Yep, Roy out-scored Orlando's big three by himself. As Bruno mentioned after the game, that along with the cowboy monkeys riding dogs at halftime are things I didn't expect to see tonight.
- Brandon Rush didn't do anything inspiring in the first half, in fact was more uninspiring. But in the second half he played as well as he's ever played for the Pacers, including that late-season stretch last year. Rush made a couple of threes down the stretch and secured several key rebounds while hounding a hobbled Vince Carter until he finally gave in. Rush finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, for once, coming up big with the game on the line.
- Luther Head continued his solid play in a starting role, scrapping his way to 18 points and sticking his nose in the mix on seemingly every play down the stretch. A couple of times he held the ball too much on offense, but he delivered enough to make it worthwhile.
- Mike Dunleavy didn't shoot real well from the perimeter but did get to the hoop for a couple of nice buckets and also grabbed some timely rebounds, finishing with 9 boards.
- A.J. Price and Josh McRoberts played a nice role off the bench giving some energy to the second unit. They both were on the floor when the Magic began cranking up their effort late in the third and at least helped keep the Magic at bay. Price was solid in the first half as well playing aggressive and making things happen. It wasn't all pretty, but he wasn't deterred when things went against him, instead remaining in attack mode. For instance, on three straight possessions in the second quarter, Price had a layup gobbled up by Howard, then next time goes right back in for a tear drop over Howard (missed but aggressive), then penetrates and sets up Solo for a bucket at the rim.
- Before the game JOB talked about giving A.J. Price a good look and liking the leadership from Earl Watson which leaves T.J. Ford outside the normal playing rotation. He also mentioned he wouldn't insult Ford and play him in a blowout situation like the team found itself in New York. Didn't want to treat the veteran like he was on a 10-day contract. For his part, Ford remains upbeat on the bench and in the locker room after the game.
- Tyler Hansbrough went through a workout in the shoot-around before the game but continues to get dizzy when running on the court so his return remains up in the air. Danny Granger also worked out and JOB thought he was still two to two and a half weeks away. That was no medical opinion, just the thoughts of a coach before facing the Magic on the heels of a 43-point blow out.
- Now the Pacers hit the road to play the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder this weekend. Looking forward to seeing which team shows up on the road and whether a little consistency might emerge from these young guys to offer a little hope.