Well, at least the Pacers won the second half.
But winning for 24 minutes pays nothing when you lose the first 24 minutes by 19 points like the Indiana Pacers did on Friday night. The New Orleans Hornets methodically built a big lead from the opening tip, sparked by rookie point guard Darren Collison showing off everything he's learned from hist injured teammate, Chris Paul.
Collison appeared a step quicker than anyone all night and put up a monster triple-double on the Pacers with 18 points, 12 assists and 13 rebounds.
But letting Collison loose was only a minor flaw in the Pacers' game. The major damage was felt in familiar fashion -- effort, fouls and offensive rebounds, and that damage kept the Pacers winless on the road against teams with a winning record as Hornets held on for the 107-101 win.
Let's start with the effort. The Pacers came out flat to start the game and showed no signs of life until after the break. The effort picked up right away in the third quarter and for about a five minute stretch early in the fourth quarter, T.J. Ford and Danny Granger played with some desperation and energized a 9-2 run that drew the Pacers within four points with six minutes left in the game.
There were even a couple of dicey foul calls in that stretch which stopped a couple of break opportunities, but the unit on the floor was feisty and fighting for everything including a win. Unfortunatley, a five minute stretch of competing desperately or a 24 minute stretch of energized play simply isn't enough in the NBA, let alone for a team like the Pacers with such a slim margin for error.
Once again, the foul situation tipped drastically in the Hornets' favor. The Pacers defensive effort was wasted too often by fouls. The ones committed on the perimeter with less than five seconds left on the shot clock are especially hurtful. The Pacers ended the game with 10 more fouls than the Hornets which translated to 17 more free throw attempts and 11 more points from the line for the home team.
Offensive rebounds torched the Pacers on Wednesday against San Antonio and tonight was no different. New Orleans snared 15 extra helpings including, much like Wednesday, a dagger offensive rebound late in the game. The Pacers were down four an needed a stop. The did everything to get the key stop with 26 seconds left but grab the ball. After Marcus Thornton missed a shot badly, David West collected the airball in the midst of several blue jerseys. From there, the Hornets sealed the win.
So now the Pacers travel to Houston to take on the new-look Rockets tomorrow night. Hopefully Kevin Martin gets lost on his way to the gym.
A few more thoughts:
- A.J. Price didn't play tonight. Josh McRoberts played a few surprise minutes in the first half, but again, no Price.
- Roy Hibbert did play and played well. He finished with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks but only had 9 FGAs. Hibbert is hungy. Feed Roy. They gotta get the big fella more touches in the post. Good things tend to happen.
- Hibbert had one of the few highlights in the first half. Three Pacers were on the break, with Earl Watson handling on the right wing. Suddenly he flung the ball back, which initially appeared to be a turnover, but then big Roy came into the picture. Running full steam, Hibby took the pass in stride and finished strong with a dunk and the foul. Big fella even broke out a little arm flexing jig to cap off the fabulous finish. Feed Roy.
- Danny Granger jump started things with a quick six points in the third quarter. He finished with 29 points and 6 rebounds on the night.
- Troy Murphy struggled mightily all night making just 2 of 13 shots and 1 of 7 from behind the arc. At one point, Murph simply wouldn't shoot an open three much to the chagrin of Jim O'Brien. On some level, he does need to keep shooting because what other options to the Pacers have?
- Mike Dunleavy made his presence felt in the too little, too late rally late in the fourth quarter. Dunleavy scored 12 of his 15 points in the final period including a couple of nice 3-balls.
- Along with Collison, the Pacers struggled trying to handle David West. The Hornets' forward finished with 29 points and knocked down 13 of 15 free throws.