Gas was around $3.00 per gallon, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng were playing for the Bulls and no one knew if Danny Granger would ever be able to play again for the Pacers. Oh, and D.J. Augustin was impressing no one with his play in Toronto.
Indiana also didn't know exactly what they had in C.J. Watson and Luis Scola, but found out by the end of the game. Watson started for an injured George Hill and drove Rose nuts most of the night. Scola also brought the Fieldhouse faithful to their feet for the first time.
After the reserve unit struggled in the first half, they came on big in the second half to put the game away, with Scola making his presence felt in a big way for the first time with a steal and a signature short-stride, sprint layup which triggered the dagger run. Scola, Watson and Lance Stephenson combined to deliver a 15-3 run to put the Pacers in control after the midway point of the fourth quarter in the eventual 97-80 win.
That seems like another season ago, at this point. Gas is over $3.50 per gallon, Rose (injury) and Deng (trade) are no longer playing for the Bulls, who have adjusted to the roster they have which included picking up Augustin after he was literally discarded by the Raptors, and squeezing the best NBA production out of him. Danny Granger eventually played for the Pacers but is now with the Clippers.
It almost seems like it has been just as long since the Pacers put forth a similar effort, fueled by physical, tight-knit defense against a quality team. That's not truly the case, but hopefully the sight of the Bulls and the electric atmosphere with plenty of Chicago fans (no doubt gobbling up secondary tickets lately) will jump-start the Pacers performance at both ends of the floor.
As you will see in the links, the team emerged from film and practice sessions on Thursday with a renewed sense of purpose, to come together and focus on playing the style of ball that works best for them. The Bulls are a nasty matchup, but their physical style of defense may be a good thing for the Pacers since they will have to match the physical play and intensity to have any chance of winning.
Check the links: