The Pacers have 29 games left in the season, and if they show up like they did tonight against the San Antonio Spurs they'll be worth watching the rest of the way.
No, the Pacers didn't win. The Spurs held on late to leave town with a 90-87 W.
Coming off the All-Star break, the refreshed Pacers showed the type of effort and intensity that made them fun to watch last season. Probably too much to expect the Pacers to maintain a similar effort for the remainder of the season, but it was nice to see tonight.
After the Pacers relinquished an early ten-point lead, the Spurs forced the Pacers to fight back a few times and they were up to the task until the final buzzer. Actually flashed a little passion and pride in the process.
The only problem was, the Spurs didn't bat an eyelash at any runs the Pacers threw at them. They just kept grinding and digging out critical offensive rebounds which spackled all of their blemishes on the night.
Nearly everything tipped in the Pacers' favor save for two critical parts of the game - the final score and rebounds.
While the Pacers held the Spurs to 35% shooting on the night and only made one less free throw than the visitors, the Spurs grabbed nine extra rebounds including 17 back-breaking offensive caroms.
Tim Duncan shot a miserable 4 for 23 from the floor with zero trips to the free throw line, but flashed his Hall of Fame credentials by grabbing 26 rebounds and 11 of those valuable offensive boards. He was visibly frustrated by his offensive game but just tortured the Pacers by utilizing his complete game.
Fittingly the Pacers needed a stop on the Spurs' final possession to have a chance to tie the game with a three. As they did much of the night, the Pacers got the defensive stop they needed, they just couldn't secure the ball. Instead Duncan kept the ball alive TWICE after misses, allowing the Spurs to eventually run the clock out.
So now the Pacers regroup, as a group since no trades are expected tomorrow, and hit the road for their next four games. Let's hope they pack the same effort so we can see more development as the season continues.
More thoughts on the game after the jump:
- Roy Hibbert played like a beast in the second half. The Spurs and Pacers both played small after the break and Hibbert quickly dispensed with DeJuan Blair then Antonio McDyess. He may not have dispensed with Tim Duncan but he certainly gave as good as he got and really spilled his guts at both ends. Mighty fine effort from the second-year center. He played huge second half minutes, mixing it up the whole time and foul trouble was never a concern. This is progress and something worth watching for the remainder of the season.
- The Spurs fell down by ten points early after starting Matt Bonner and Keith Bogans instead of Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess. For a bit, I thought the Pacers may get a break with Jefferson and McDyess possibly being held out with a trade in the works. Unfortunately, they came off the bench with Manu Ginobili and well, you know the rest.
- The Spurs struggled with their small lineup in the third quarter. Speaking with Tim Varner of the great Spurs blog, 48 Minutes of Hell, he mentioned the Coach Pop was in love with the small lineup even though it doesn't always have the desired results.
- The Pacers small lineup worked real well, sparked by the duo of Earl Watson and T.J. Ford. Ford played very well off the ball and the two were quite disruptive on the defensive end. In fact, I even heard a general round of applause for the defensive effort after T.J. deflected a pass out of bounds following a Watson steal on the previous possession.
- Danny Granger came out strong shooting the ball well and really put in a strong effort to close out the first half and keep the game close. Granger finished with 23 points but wasn't able to muster up the same game-changing will in the second half that he flashed in the second quarter.
- Granted, Earl Watson and T.J. Ford played real well tonight, but A.J. Price needs some minutes. 29 games left for the rookie to learn some more NBA lessons this season.