With a potential Friday night trip to Naptown sidelined by snow, what better way to soak up the opulence of the Circle City on television then by watching the Pacers distract the locals in Conseco Fieldhouse against the hated Pistons?
A.J. Price made his first NBA start tonight, Jim O'Brien returned to his normal spot on the sideline, and T.J. Ford made his triumphant return to the floor. The Pacers looked to ride the momentum wave, which peaked following a 130 point performance against the Raptors, but what about a lack of Earl Watson, out for personal reasons? Or Lester Conner back to being simply an assistant? Despite the performance on Tuesday, it's still hard to know what team would show up, just as it's become difficult to know exactly how many inches would fall outside of the stadium's doors.
Price was tested early by Rodney Stuckey, as Stuckey scored the first four points of the game. As Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush failed to convert easy buckets, Danny Granger himself scored the first five points for Indiana. Both teams struggled with turnovers early to create an ugly and disjointed game, the Pistons building a quick lead on better hustle. The Pacers responded with a 12-2 run to take the lead as the Pistons shooting dropped to freezing temps with Indiana holding the lead 24-20 after one.
Ford checked in to start the second, as Granger continued to carry the Pacers early in the second. The Pistons managed to stay in the game despite continuing their poor shooting by being active around the ball, forcing turnovers and grabbing rebounds from the hands of Pacers players. Jason Maxiell caused countless problems for Big Roy on both ends of the floor, taking Roy out of the gameplan. T.J. Ford came out smoking hot on the offensive end, guiding the Pacers to a double digit lead they would build to 15 by the half.
The Pacers picked right up out of the half, extending their 14-2 end of half run to score eight straight, pushing the game to 23. Smart plays by Price and good offensive possessions kept the Pacers lead at a comfortable margin as the third progressed, despite the Pistons continuing to play opportunistic on loose balls. Indiana benefited heavily as the Pistons offense simply couldn't get anything constant despite a strong quarter for Ben Gordon and Stuckey. The Pacers held the Pistons on runs, taking a 76-56 lead into the final quarter.
Indiana didn't let up the gas in the fourth, pushing the lead to 26 behind great play from Danny and T.J. Indiana continued to play tremendous ball in the fourth, continuing to get welcome contributions from Brandon Rush as well, leading the way to the cruise control victory, seeing some old rotation favorites with Solo, McBobs and his faux hawk, and the Dienermobile. No better way to end the night than to push the lead to 30 and have a Diener to McRoberts alley oop finish us off, as the snow continued to fall on the cold night, unaffected by the heat the Pacers unleashed in the Fieldhouse.
Some bullets on the team's second straight fun victory after the jump.
- Indiana committed six first quarter turnovers and managed to push that number down to 9 for the rest of the game. It's no mistake the Pacers began taking control of the game once they got the turnovers under control.
- Indiana held Detroit to 20 points or under for the first three quarters, the first time all season. The Pacers deserve credit for defense, but the Pistons did their fair share, shooting well under 40% for most of the game, and only getting reliable contributions from Ben Gordon, who finished with 26 points.
- With plenty to take from A.J. Price's first start, it was T.J. Ford who stole the show, coming out on fire in the second quarter in his first floor action in over a month, going 4-4 with 9 points in playing all 12 minutes in the second, finished with 11 points, 3 boards, and 5 assists.
- Even still, A.J. Price played the first quarter, coming away with three points and three assists in that quarter, finishing with eight and four. Some early struggles getting settled into the role were noticeable, but Price still had a serviceable effort on the floor. He wasn't allowed a lot of game changing opportunities with the lead and the hot hand in Ford, so it's hard to reach much of a conclusion on Price's overall experience, but it was an A.J. Price performance, something that is a positive until proven otherwise.
- Danny Granger had an peculiar performance. When driving the line, he managed to get most of what he wanted down low, earning friendly rolls and numerous free throw trips, also making opportunistic defensive plays. But he countered it with a handful of turnovers and poor three point shots despite great looks. Granger still finished with a team high 25 and managed to find six rebounds.
- Brandon Rush scored 16 points, his eighth straight double digit game, the second such streak in his young career. It's nice to see production from Rush, but it's even better to see him flow within the offense, as well as continuing his strong defensive play.
- Roy Hibbert was never able to free himself from Jason Maxiell, but put together a respectable game, pulling down 5 offensive rebounds in a quiet double double and finished with a game high +29 in the +/-, if that is your kind of stat, showing his worth despite not having a loud game.
- Pacers get a nice road test against Brandon Jennings and the Bucks tomorrow night, assuming they can get out of New York's snowstorm, a game T.J. Ford definitely deserves to see some burn in.