On Tuesday night, Leandro Barbosa made his debut with the Indiana Pacers and in one game showed all of the different ways he can help the Pacers off the bench.
Barbosa's effort along with a few other fortuitous circumstances created the best midweek environment at the Fieldhouse for a game in a long, long time. Sure there have been bigger crowds at the Fieldhouse during the week when Chicago, Miami, Boston or the Knicks show up, but those crowds have their fair share of opposing fans.
When the Knicks were in town on Saturday, there were three factions with Pacers fans, Knicks fans and Jeremy Lin fans. I blame IU's efforts to recruit East Coast students for all of the Knicks fans because the only unanimous roar all night came when the Hoosiers' winning score was announced. But anyway, the crowd of 15,000 for the Clippers game wasn't a sell out but it was a great crowd which Barbosa noticed, as he mentioned following the game.
"First of all, I'm very happy to get the first win at home," said Barbosa. "I was very excited to play with the second group, it's an energy group and we run like crazy so it was enjoyable. And to see the fans cheering for us when we bring that energy was just great. I'm very happy to be here."
No doubt many in attendance came to watch Blake Griffin and Chris Paul but that doesn't mean they were vociferous Clippers fans and as Barbosa said, they were definitely cheering for the Pacers. It also helped that the Clippers, led by Blake Griffin, were so engaged with trying to draw calls. The flopping and whining seemed like an assault on the hoops' fans senses in the seats, provoking a visceral response. Man, it was fun to hear the crowd so into it as the Pacers players and fans seemed to feed off of each other and send the Clips home with a loss.
As for Barbosa, in this one game he earned some new fans with the different ways he can have an impact off the bench for the Pacers.
For starters, Barbosa showed he can indeed create his own shot which he had to do on a few occasions. His first bucket was a nice iso drive to the hoop for a layup. Later in the game he was stuck with the ball as the shot clock was winding down. One time he was able to drive a scoop the ball toward the rim which didn't result in a score (I didn't say he was perfect) but just getting by his man when he was bottled up was a good sight.
Later he found a way to get up a fade away three, again missing, but the shot was clean and in a past life I've actually seen him make that shot against the Pacers. He did make a deep three earlier in the game to beat the clock showing that his range must be accounted for by the defense.
Barbosa also facilitates the offense with his movement off the ball. This was never more evident than when he sliced to the rim to get a pass from George Hill for a reverse layup as the shot clock expired. He also had two break away buckets, beating the defense to the other end in transition. Along with that I counted at least two other situations where he took off down court and was open behind the defense but didn't get the pass ahead. Soon his teamates should be looking to find him with a pass on the break.
All three of these scenarios, breaking down defense in the lane, shooting the three and racing to the rim in transition, apply pressure that work to the Pacers' advantage. It will likely be rare when Barbosa has all three facets going like he did in his debut, but when he has one, two or all three going the Pacers will be a better team and one that keeps bringing fans to their feet in appreciation.