From the moment Paul George broke the script and took the mic before last night's tip-off, we knew we were in for something special. After a night to sleep on it, lets take the win for what it was: a mostly Pacers controlled game against a more-or-less formidable opponent. Despite the late run from the Dallas Mavericks, the Pacers were able to hold onto a season opener victory, a feat that after last year's 0-3 start we can stomach. What I saw was a team up to the challenge to prove themselves to a sports media that for some odd reason has shunned them from conference considerations. What else is new? The Pacers have long been the underdog.
What I saw was a team willing to spread the wealth, signified by all five starters reaching double figures before the end of regulation. The Pacers, a team that only averaged 21.2 assists per game last year, racked up 30 as a club while cutting down on turnovers.
I saw a team that didn't rely on it's three point game to bail them out, but threw down 54 points in the paint. They won the battle on the glass as well, pulling down 60 rebounds, a category they ranked 12th in the NBA just a season ago.
I saw a team that despite falling off the wagon late, didn't completely fall on their face in overtime. While the Mavericks outscored the Pacers 30-21 in the fourth quarter, Indiana stormed back to take overtime 15-6. How many times did we see close games not go the blue and gold's way?
I saw the birth of a star. While we know this is Paul George's team, he needs a sidekick. Who better than a twenty year old kid with a goofy haircut? By the time Myles Turner took off like a Southwest Jet for the slam in overtime we already knew he had arrived. Finishing the game with 30 points, 16 boards and four blocks is enough to silence anyone doubting he was ready to play the five. Keep in mind, Andrew Bogut is no slouch on defense and has been in the NBA since Turner was in elementary school (not a joke, Myles and I are the same age and I was in 5th grade when Bogut was drafted in 2005).
I saw the beginning of a new era of Pacers basketball. Last year was a team with the right ideas, just not the tools to do the job. Jeff Teague is a legitimate point guard for a high tempo offense. There is plenty of offense to go around and will make it the most fun Pacers team we've seen since, dare I say, Reggie Miller. It's not hard to see as Pacers fans that there is a fire in this team that isn't going anywhere.
That being said, a win is always a good night, but there is still some concern. New Head Coach Nate McMillan has some work to do with the rotation. Paul George played the entire first quarter and needed a rest for most of the second. We saw the likes of Thaddeus Young get in foul trouble, something that an aggressive power forward is going to need to keep tabs on as the Pacers don't have much depth in that position. The defense gave up 121 points and ten offensive rebounds, Turner, Young and George need to be crashing the glass more aggressively in the second half.
What I'm not understanding is the lack of coverage on this team. The day after a twenty year old puts up an all-star performance, there is not one mention of him on national sports media. I've seen various projections for the season and many folks have the Indiana Pacers at a six seed or lower in the Eastern Conference. I'll say it now, if the Pacers offense plays like it did against the Mavericks, it will be impossible for the big name stations to ignore them for long. There is nothing that I can foresee that keeps this team from being a top four seed in the East, they are that dangerous. It's a new era of Pacers basketball and it's time for them to rise.