The Pacers players’ record in the NCAA Tournament is well documented, with more than a few making Final Four trips, and even some winning championships. So it’s only fitting after a great first day of the tournament that Indiana would treat the home crowd to a March Madness thriller of their very own.
Positive news before tipoff was that Danny Granger would take the floor after the nasty hit that kept him out against Cleveland. Also returning to the floor would be Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey after two weeks away following his stroke. Brandon Rush led the Pacers to start the game to help push them to a quick ten point lead that would hold up through most of the night.
The blue and gold were simply on fire in the first half, shooting 60% even after willingly bringing down those numbers with a cold close to the second quarter. Troy Murphy scored 18 in the first half on four three pointers, four of Indiana’s ten in the first half helping to take a 21 point lead into the half.
Detroit wasn’t able to make much headway in the third quarter, taking runs and giving up runs, only chipping four points off the lead heading into the final session. But wouldn’t you know it, even on an easy night, the Pacers can’t make it easy. Behind Stuckey and Ben Gordon, the Pistons closed the gap, taking their first lead of the night with just under three minutes left. Cue a big shot by Earl Watson, and then three big free throws from Granger to put the game on ice for good as Indiana closed the night with their final nine points coming at the line.
This win puts the two teams at a tie for lottery position, but with a 3-0 series lead, I think maybe, just maybe, Detroit may have the inside track. So it's ultimately a bitter victory for anyone hoping for that franchise savior, but I maintain that it still feels good to beat Detroit for a fifth straight time. Regardless of your stance, jump with me and we’ll take a look at some highlights and lowlights from a rare Pacers win (game) and loss (lottery position):
- The first quarter helped set the pace for Indiana, shooting over 68% while Detroit couldn’t muster up even 27%. The game evened out, however.
- Danny Granger won the Jim O’Brien Award for Excellence tonight, scoring 29 on only 16 shots, with six assists and three boards to boot. It was a pretty quiet big night. Not bad.
- A.J. Price got 11 minutes of action, and really struggled, scoring a point and only dishing out a dime. He is still learning the game on a very high difficulty, so these types of nights are bound to happen, right?
- More positive note, Brandon Rush had a nice game, leading the Pacers out to a big lead, finishing with 15 points and 5 boards. Roy Hibbert put together a similar night of worth.
- Richard Hamilton went scoreless for the first time since his rookie season. If you want a microcosm of Detroit’s season, that seems like a good place to look.
- Rodney Stuckey didn’t appear to miss a beat, leading the Pistons in scoring with 25 points.
- I don’t believe much in the +/- stat, but it’s worth noting that all five starters for Indiana drew +’s over 10, while no bench player could even break even.
- In another lottery position battle, the Knicks edged out the 76ers, as the Pacers pull to within a game of eleventh place in the East and seventh or eighth overall (pending Sacramento vs. Milwaukee). It's getting further away, isn't it?
As the Pacers move down another slot in the draft lottery, they’ll play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant in another early Sunday game. No television coverage for the locals, so if you live in the greater Indiana region, by all means, make your way out to Conseco Fieldhouse see a true MVP candidate and one of the league’s best young stars.