The Indiana Pacers put together one of their more impressive wins on the road on Wednesday night when they outlasted the Philadephia 76ers, 88-69. With a bag full of mental and physical excuses to grab from for a loss, the Pacers instead closed ranks and fired up for one more run and a third win in as many nights.
Something that often goes unnoticed with this team is how fiercely they like to compete and how tough they both between the lines and between the ears. But in the final two minutes with the game in hand, Indiana's starters remained on the court and kept playing through the final buzzer. It was a perfect time for Frank Vogel to clear the bench, but instead Vogel and his players kept grinding through the finish line.
The message was clear: Three games in three days? Bring it! We're ready to keep playing right now. Let's go for four! (Well, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.)
Real tough guys don't talk it, they show it and according to Mike Wells' report on the game today, Vogel appealed to the toughness to fire his squad up for a no excuses win in Philly. David West is a pillar of stoic toughness for the Pacers, but I maintain, George Hill is pound-for-pound as tough and competitive as any player in the league.
Hill excels with a chip on his shoulder, so as several players finally let loose on the league for the Chicago re-scheduling nightmare, the team's point guard captured the us vs. them mindset the Pacers rode for the past three days while keeping relatively quiet about the situation throughout the process.
"By them scheduling the games like that, it just shows the respect we get," Pacers point guard George Hill bluntly said. "I guess we have to earn respect. We're fine with that. We're used to being the underdog. Playing that way gives us motivation and a chip on our shoulder. It also forces people to rethink what they do to us."
Motivation throughout the long 82-game NBA regular season is critical for a team like the Pacers that has to play well to win. After they exhale for a day, a new challenge must be set before the Pacers to keep them rolling. No doubt Vogel will pull out tapes of the Pacers worst home game of the season, when they laid an egg against a worn out Toronto Raptors team back in November. The Raptors, now with Rudy Gay, will be back at the Fieldhouse on Friday.
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