What started out as an attempt to keep a running log of what I was hoping would be high-scoring, intriguing matchup between the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets, quickly turned into a game that only the most diehard of Indianapolis basketball fans would stay tuned into.
So while the end result isn’t the entertaining game log that I was hoping for, there was still a lot to be learned about the 2009-10 Pacers by watching Tuesday night’s game at Conseco Fieldhouse…while sitting on my couch at home.
First, some pertinent notes from the pregame show:
-These two teams met twice while in China, with the Pacers winning in convincing fashion in the first game 126-104, and then falling in equally convincing fashion 128-112 two days later.
-Jeff Foster is out at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain, meaning the Pacers frontcourt is thinner than Christian Bale in “The Machinist.” Not a good thing. Jim O’Brien desperately needs his own “Foul Machinist,” Roy Hibbert, to stay out of foul trouble for the Pacers to have a chance.
–Indianapolis sports fans and groupies alike should be aware that tonight is Tyler Hansbrough’s birthday! I’d really like to wish “Psycho T” a big, Hoosier style Happy Birthday, I really would, but until I see him wearing the Blue and Gold in a regular season game, I can’t acknowledge him. Word on the street is his debut could come Friday night.
1st QUARTER: Pacers vs. Nuggets
Indiana starts with Hibbert, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy, Brandon Rush, and T.J. Ford. 12 seconds into the quarter and there’s already a foul whistled near the hoop on Murphy. Not a good sign. On the bright side, at least it wasn’t on Hibbert.
As if to prove his importance, “Big Roy” hits a sweeping left hook over Nene on Indiana’s first possession. Five minutes later, Granger hits his first shot of the game to put the Pacers up 7-6. Considering the Nuggets are averaging 115 points a game coming into tonight, and Indiana’s a notoriously high-octane offense, it’s very surprising to see this game being played at a snail’s pace (right now, they’re on pace to score 117 points…combined).
Note to Reader: For those of you who like to skip ahead and read the last page first, this was the only lead Indiana held all night. And yes, the scoring is about to pick up.
Over the next two minutes, Ford missed a jumper (one of several poor shots on the night for the point guard), the Nuggets had two offensive rebounds that resulted in an Anthony Carter three pointer. Hibbert had “the chair pulled out” from under him on an awkward post move (the old “chair pull out” is a classic veteran move where the defender waits for the offensive player to initiate contact, and then immediately jumps back, causing an unbalanced player (as Hibbert was) to fall flat on their back).
Normally I find it hysterical when incredibly large people fall, but not in this instance. Hibbert then committed his second foul, and was sent to the bench with the team trailing 14-7.
By the end of the quarter, the lead had ballooned to 30-13, and Pacers fans across Indianapolis were left to wonder how things got out of hand so quickly.
2ND QUARTER: Indiana vs. Denver
The second quarter brought no improvement, as the Pacers trailed by as much as 21 at one point. Granger didn’t hit his second shot until 2:19 left in the quarter, an ominous stat that should tell Larry Bird all he needs to know about the current makeup of his squad. When Danny’s not in “The Granger Zone,” they can’t compete.
To top off the horrible half of basketball, Murphy left the game after bruising his lower back in a hard fall to the floor. Perhaps the only positive to take away from the otherwise forgettable half was an extended look at the Pacemates coming back from a TV timeout. They seem especially “enthusiastic” this season.
Instead of inundating you with the boring details of the second half, I’ll just give you a quick synopsis of the most relevant info I could gather. Trust me, you’re not missing much.
2ND HALF: Indiana Pacers vs. Denver Nuggets
-T.J. Ford takes entirely too many bad shots. He would rather blindly drive into a one-on-three fastbreak or pull up for an ill-advised jumper, instead of looking to get his teammates involved. If there’s one quality you don’t want in a point guard, “taking too many bad shots” is probably it.
-Watching the second unit of Earl Watson, Dahntay Jones, Luther Head, and Solomon Jones play, the question I kept asking my dog (he’s the only one I could get to watch the game with me) was; “Where in the heck are the points going to come from?” He responded with a quizzical stare that seemed to say, “I have no clue.” And he was right on.
Other than Jones, who went for a team high 20 points in a revenge game against his former team, the Pacers received just 20 of their 93 points from bench players. The addition of Hansbrough will help, but the lack of players able to create their own shot is becoming increasingly more obvious.
-Speaking of Jones, I love what I’ve seen from him so far. He’s strong and very physical, not only on defense, but offensively as well. He’s not afraid of bodying up against anyone, and his improved jump shot gives him a much needed added dimension on offense. He looks to me to be someone entering the prime of his career that can contribute significantly as a role player. A great “piece of the puzzle” guy, if you will.
-As constructed, it’s painfully obvious this roster is not playoff worthy. Oh, there’s a chance they back their way into postseason play, but the lottery selection that comes with missing the playoffs would be far more valuable to this team right now. The core — Granger, Hibbert, Rush, Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones, Murphy, and Mike Dunleavy (maybe) — has the potential to be a very, very, potent unit. It’s not yet though. Not even close.
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