The Butler Bulldogs looked fabulous last weekend when they disposed of Wisconsin and Florida at New Orleans Arena to secure a Final Four appearance in Houston where they advanced to the NCAA Championship against Connecticut on Monday night.
Speaking of magic, the highlight of the game tonight came around halftime when the Washington Wizards held on to beat the Charlotte Bobcats, reducing the Pacers' playoff magic number to three. Obviously there are different levels of magic. David Copperfield or Penn and Teller on the Vegas strip will blow your mind. Uncle Bernie doing card tricks in the afternoon at your local senior citizens center? Not so much.
Let's just say, any magic mentioned around the Pacers right now wouldn't threaten Uncle Bernie. Frank Vogel has talked about finishing the season strong, and heading into the playoffs on a run and with confidence akin to the Green Bay Packers. That goal continues to sputter and you have to wonder if the Pacers will ever win their way into the playoffs or merely hang on while Charlotte loses out.
That's probably a little harsh after watching a double-digit loss that saw little defensive intensity from the starting unit and certainly no fire to finish the season strong. Give the Hornets credit for making winning plays, not to mention a ton of shots. It wasn't all gift-wrapped. But we've seen this type of flat tire on the road before this season so there's really no reason to recap all of the gory details other than to say the game was not as close as the final score indicates.
A too-late run in garbage time that forced New Orleans coach Monty Williams to reluctantly put his starters back in the game dragged a 20-point loss down to a more palatable 12 points. You'll notice that Pacers coach, Frank Vogel felt no such urge when the game got interesting with three minutes to play, which tells you what he thought of his starting unit's effort on the night. In fact, Vogel made sure Danny Granger didn't see the floor in the fourth by giving James Posey some extended run.
A few more thoughts, after the jump.
- Quinn Buckner mentioned that he enjoyed a big Louisiana feast with a lot of extended family and friends of Danny Granger. All of that home cooking must've left DG fat and happy because he never got anything going tonight and really struggled defending anyone wearing a white Hornets uniform.
- One of DG's covers, Trevor Arizaon the other hand went off. This is the guy Houston thought they were signing two years ago. When the Pacers won in December, Ariza shot 1 for 13 and played even worse than that line indicates. Tonight Ariza was 8 of 13 with 19 points and 9 rebounds.
- The Pacers were torched early and often on the interior, giving up 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and numerous easy buckets at the rim. Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry combined for 32 points and 25 rebounds, roughly twice as much production as Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough offered the Pacers.
- Paul George didn't do much offensively which has been the norm in his role as a starter. He did guard Chris Paul for a stretch in the second half and applied some nice pressure, keeping Paul off-balance with his length. Of course, Paul had enough at one point and shook PG to the ground before stepping back and knocking down a jumper. Paul then stared down the Pacers bench.
- James Posey didn't waste any time squeezing off 3-balls in his return to the court. While he missed all four of his shots from behind the arc, Posey did surprise the masses by finishing a transition bucket with a dunk.
- In the first half, Paul and Jeff Foster tangled legs which left CP3 writhing on the floor, holding his knee while the home crowd was holding their collective breath. After gingerly limping off the court, Paul had his fears of a serious injury relieved and return to the court to continue torching the Pacers.
Like I said, the details aren't worth the time tonight. The Pacers can come back on Wednesday night after some practice time get back on track against the Washington Wizards. Hopefully the Wiz don't pull a Sacramento Kings by following up a good win over Charlotte tonight with another strong effort against the Pacers. Should they though, is it too much to ask for the Pacers to at least equal that strong effort.
We don't need anything magical from the Pacers, just another win or two.