I use the term interesting, because these games weren't necessarily the best games of the year, but instead either showed us something interesting about this team or drew some special attention to the Pacers. For a team trying to capture the attention of a local fan base, these were games that had people talking around town and in a few cases, around the country.
Before I get started, this list is obviously subjective so please share your thoughts on the topic and other games that you felt were interesting. I had to pare this list down to five, admittedly wiping out a couple of losses that exposed issues, so let me know what else I missed.
144 points, yeah that's pretty interesting, but it wasn't the only interesting take away from this game that introduced the 2010-11 Indiana Pacers to the NBA nation, showing this wasn't the same team they'd grown accustomed to dismissing the past couple of seasons.The Pacers went into this game against the Nuggets on the cusp of an early knock out from the local sports consciousness having lost their previous two games -- a miserable no-show blow out in Philadelphia and a late game collapse against the Bogut-less Bucks -- and staring at chasing a .500 record only six games into the season.
Then it happened. A 54-point third quarter for the ages. The Pacers made their first 20 shots, with Josh McRoberts missing a 3-ball at the buzzer to break the streak. Mike Dunleavy was throwing in threes from all over the joint, scoring 24 points of his 31 points that night in the third. Needless to say, this effort garnered plenty of local and national attention as SportsCenter and NBA TV couldn't show the highlights enough.
It was almost too good. An outlier of near-perfection so staggering that it was an outlier with no hopes of a trend developing. But after the poor loss in Philly, bouncing back and showing some potency was a much needed shot in the arm.
Needless to say a huge road win for the Pacers considering any game against the Heat with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade garners plenty of attention. Beating the Heat did just that for the Pacers and made sure that attention was all positive. It also forced us all to admit that this Pacers team was playing much better defense this season. It was actually getting fun to look at the team defensive stats.
The second unit also came up big for the Pacers in this one, helping to fuel a 35-point second quarter that had the Pacers playing with a lead for most of the game. The fact that they held onto a double-digit lead throughout much of the second half, weathering and beating back an attempted third quarter run by the Heat, showed some serious growth out of this young team.
And don't tell me the Heat were struggling at that point of the season. This is about the Pacers taking advantage of the Heat struggling and putting them away on the road. Considering the nightmare games the Pacers played in Miami last season without LeBron, this was a huge win.
The Pacers staggered through this road game against the Bucks overcoming double-digit deficits in the first half, somehow hanging around as they played in fits and starts. A big third quarter run put the Pacers back in the game that remained tight the rest of the way to the buzzer.
Of course, this is the game when Andrew Bogut broke the Pacers heart at the buzzer by tipping in a perfect pass with 0.5 seconds remaining on the clock. That final play alone put a national spotlight on this game between two Midwest, small-market teams. But it was the play before that taught us a lesson about this Pacers team.
Young center, Roy Hibbert had the game-winner in his hands after a triple-teamed Danny Granger found Hibbert open on the elbow. Hibbert rushed his shot at glory and nearly missed everything wide right. The ball barely grazed the rim which made it fall out of bounds with 0.5 seconds remaining. It was a reminder that for all of Hibbert's progress in the first part of the season, he still has plenty of room for growth.
Handling such a critical situation will take time for Big Roy so this experience should eventually pay off down the road. Bogut's tip made this an expensive lesson, but we learned Hibbert isn't ready for prime time just yet, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
Much like the Miami Heat, any game involving Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers is worthy of national attention. When the Lakers lose it's even bigger news, so the Pacers were once again among the top stories on SportsCenter and the national websites, as those following the NBA had to do a double-take realizing the Pacers had just beat the Heat and the Lakers on the road within a week's time.
Unlike the Heat win, the Pacers had to hang on through 41 points from Kobe and a late charge from the champs that cut the lead to one with 30 seconds to go. Roy Hibbert capped off an impressive performance when T.J. Fordfound him rolling to the hoop unguarded to score the final points of the game. At the other end, Hibbert snared Kobe's deep 3-ball attempt out of the air and it really happened: the Pacers won in L.A. against the Lakers.
This was the first win for the team at the Staples Center so they were happy. Of course, the Lakers took note and punished the Pacers for their celebratory mood by rolling over the blue and gold at the Fieldhouse a couple weeks later, but who cares. A big win like that deserves some celebration. I also found it funny that the Lakers took such umbrage over the Pacers winning reaction. Especially, Matt Barnes. Are you kidding me? Matt Barnes? Talk about a little brother chirping behind his big brother and a group of friends.
This win needs little introduction considering Mike Dunleavy's game-winning tip-in is still fresh in our minds. But that tip was oh so huge it deserves additional attention. As for the game itself, the late heroics wiped out what would've been another devastating loss to pile on the home losses to Milwaukee and Houston.
Roy Hibbert's horrible night would've been magnified and Darren Collison's strong game against Chris Paul, highlighting his gradual improvement of late, would've been diminished. The team would be three games under .500 instead of one heading into the break. Now there's hope of staying around that .500 makr through the tough parts of the early January schedule.
Most importantly though, there was a good crowd at that game for a snowy Monday night and it sent all of them home with a story to tell their friends and neighbors. With six days off, Dunleavy left the media and fans with a positive last impression to take through the holiday. There is no doubt there will be more Pacers tickets in the stockings of fans this Christmas and the big finish on Monday certainly helped spark that idea for a lot of people searching for gift ideas.