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IC Cold Links: Young Guns Prove Their Worth Against Mighty Cavs

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There was something that happened during last night's 99-94 loss to Cleveland that was very exciting -- the rise (and fall) of the young guns.

Three players who could possibly be a big part of the future of the Indiana Pacers came alive during the fourth quarter to push the Cavaliers to the limit, ultimately unleashing LeBron James in all his glory before succumbing to defeat. The play of Brandon Rush, A.J. Price and Roy Hibbert during a stretch that erased an 18-point deficit to climb back within one point of tying the game with four minutes remaining was what we've all been waiting for of late. The youngin's were finally unleashed.

Of course, if you tuned into SportsCenter this morning, you just got the sense that Rush was made a fool last night. As the lead story this morning, the "James vs. Rush" matchup played Rush as the court jester compared to James' knight in shining armor. But before King James reigned down Hell upon the Pacers in the final three minutes, Rush and company put together a fantastic run. The three combined for 17 points in a 22-5 run that cut the Cavs' lead to 88-87, and they finished with 23 of the team's 29 fourth-quarter points. 

Coach Jim O'Brien was impressed: "They knew we were calling their number a lot. And, they have confidence in their ability to score and the more their confidence builds, the better NBA players they will be. It's good to have young guys that are constantly improving."

A couple of factors helped the kids along. Despite getting in foul trouble early, Hibbert came back to do a lot of damage against a Shaquille O'Neal-less Cavs squad. He also scored 10 of his team-high 20 points in the first quarter. Rush and Price did a lot of their damage when Cleveland had mailed in the fourth quarter, hoping to coast to a Central Division title. Still, the heart was there to comeback and they came very, very close to putting the Pacers on an actual winning streak. Rush said it best: "We're going to be playing together for the next couple of years, and it's definitely a good sign that we played pretty well against a great team. A.J. (Price) played good and Roy (Hibbert) played good, so it's definitely a good look for us in the future."

Check out the jump for links to last night's loss.