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Pacers Head Into Holiday Break A Little Tip-sy From Exciting Win

When was the last time you cut your fingernails?

After last night'sgame-winning tip sent Pacer fans Fa La La-ing into a holiday hoops break, Mike Dunleavy considered the question.

"Heh, probably a week," Dunleavy said after looking at his fingers to survey the growth. "So that's why it went in, that was the difference."

Talk about at thin margin for error. Dunleavy needed every ounce of growth and cuticle support to nudge Danny Granger's near make back home for the winning bucket and send the shocked New Orleans Hornets home with another road loss.

In a game where both coaches shuffled lineups like they were working a Rubik's cube, and not trying to solve the whole puzzle but just complete one side, looking for anything to alleviate the struggle to score points, it came down to a furious swipe at the ball as it was spinning its way outside the hoop.

That swipe was the difference between a holiday heartbreak and a happy holiday break. While it took less than a second for Dunleavy to re-direct the ball to creep back over the rim, it seemed like the ball hung on the rim for several minutes, like Christmas tree ornament.

After the refs confirmed what was obvious to the naked eye, it was time for everyone in Conseco Fieldhouse to exhale and enjoy the moment. Well, not everyone. The Hornets remained in stunned disbelief as they staggered off the court.

As for the Pacers, the win sent them into an extended with no games on a positive note. The Pacers don't play again until Sunday evening, but they will practice for three of those days to work on some of the issues the exciting win helped mask.

After the jump, a few more thoughts on those problem areas along with some more pleasant observations from the Fieldhouse last night.

-- Jeff Foster showed he was a quick study at power forward after breakinghimself in at Boston the night before. Foster was an absolute beast, frustrating David West early and often while setting up camp on the glass to help minimize a minimal effort from Roy Hibbert. I wondered if playing the night before helped knock the rust off.

"Yes, I haven't played the power forward all year and haven't played with that starting group in practice until the day before the Celtics game," Foster said. "There's some familiarity I have to learn but it's fun to be out there playing with them and getting up and down."

-- Danny Granger had his stroke goingfrom distance, making 4 of 8 3-pointers. He only made 4 of 14 inside the arc but was able to get to the line and create a miserable night for the Hornets' Trevor Ariza. After Ariza was called for a block on a Granger drive to the bucket in the second half, Ariza's frustrations started to show. Teammate Jason Smith noticed something in Ariza'seyes because as he helped him up Smith started imploring Ariza not to give up and to keep fighting. 

-- Darren Collison and James Posey were huge against their former team, combining for 33 points. Poseyknocked down 5 of 7 3-pointers that all helped swing momentum in the Pacers' favor, inluding that stone-cold splash to put the Pacers up one with 30 seconds left. Posey let it go right in front of the Hornets' bench too. After his struggles last year, I'm sure many fans in New Orleans were wondering who that guy was.

-- As for Collison, he seemed more comfortable going at Chris Paul than he has against any other point guard this year. He had great bounce in his game and ended up out-playing CP3 straight up. Collison finished with 18 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 4 turnovers to Paul's 15 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 6 turnovers. After the game, Collison was excited to play well against his old team, but seemed more interested in playing well for his new team.

 "I'm starting to get comfortable with my new teammates, but overall it was just a good team win," Collison said with an ice pack on his ankle. "What's good is that we're going into a break and can keep working. We can't let down. We've got to go back to practice and work on things we need to fix like our rebounding, but I'm happy we got the win."

-- Roy Hibbert had an absolutely brutal game and should enjoy the time off to hit the reset button and get his game on track again. Hibbert only made 1 of 10 shots with 3 rebounds while his counterpart, Emeka Okafor was strong in the post with 19 points and 15 rebounds. To make matters worse, after re-entering the game with 4:30 left, Hibberthad a soft layup attempt stuffed by David West and then two turnovers before getting the hook in favor of Jeff Foster. While some questioned why Jim O'Brien took out Hibbert for a short stretch in the fourth quarter at Boston, last night one had to question why JOB put Hibbert back in at about the same time.

-- Part of the Rubik's cube roster shuffling included some extreme small ball early in the fourth quarter. At one point, Chris Paul re-entered the game and Jarrett Jack started walking to the bench only to hear his coach yell at him to stay. Instead Marco Belinelli left, leaving Jack, Paul and Marcus Thornton on the court for the Hornets. Jim O'Brien also teamed up Collison and T.J. Ford at the same time. For a minute, I thought JOB might insert A.J. Price for some micro-mini ball, but Brandon Rush was capable of staying with any of the Hornets' guards.

-- Finally, it was nice to see a good crowd on hand considering it was a snowy Monday evening. Certainly wasn't a sell out but there was a good crowd in the upper deck and the place was loud down the stretch.