What a fun night.
First the Celtics lose at home again (to the Suns), then the Bucks win in NYC the Lakers get pummeled by the Magic…and before the night is over Kevin Love hits a buzzer beating three-pointer from waaaay downtown to lead the Timberwolves to an unlikely comeback victory over the Clippers in LA (gotta love that Rubio kid too — he was huge down the stretch).
Oh, and the Pacers had a huge night as well, escaping with a thrilling 94-91 victory against the Warriors in Golden State after that disappointing fourth quarter implosion against Sactown a couple of nights ago. The two teams have a lot of connections — of course, Warriors coach Mark Jackson used to be the quarterback in Indy and led them to their own NBA finals appearance back in 2000; there was also that little-talked-about Brandon Rush for Lou Amundson trade in the offseason…and who could forget the game-winner Monta Ellis sank to break the Pacers’ back last season?
The Pacers simply don’t have anyone that can guard Monta Ellis, and plus they got Stephen Curry back from injury (always lethal). Throw in Nate Robinson, the little man the Pacers always seem to have trouble containing, and I was suddenly very nervous about this game.
It was a close one all the way through, thanks to the best shooting night of the season for Danny Granger (26 points on 10-16 shooting (including 3-3 from downtown) and the best rebounding night of Roy Hibbert‘s career (16 boards to go with 10 points), not to mention a look-like-he’s-getting-his-legs-back David West (18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 7-12 shooting) — but holy crap Monta Ellis was unstoppable, and Stephen Curry also chipped in with some big shots down the stretch, keeping the game at 91-91 with the clock winding down.
The Warriors had the supposed last possession of the game and the ball in Ellis’s hands, which spelled trouble with a capital T. Everyone expected Ellis to blow by his man and flip up some incredible shot into the basket, and that probably would have happened had the man guarding Ellis not been George Hill (14 points on the night) — who stripped (okay, maybe he kicked it a little) the ball from Ellis atop the three-point line and raced the length of the floor before banking in a layup with Curry fouling him. Hill calmly completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 3 point lead with less than 2 seconds to play, and the Pacers were very fortunate to dodge a bullet when Stephen Curry missed a wide open three at the buzzer.
With the victory, the Pacers improve to 10-4 for the season. Yes, it has been against crappy opponents for the most part but it’s hard to be disappointed with how the record currently looks. Next up, the Lakers and a McBob reunion in LA.
- tonight was the most aggressive I have seen West in a Pacers uniform. He demanded the ball and took charge against whoever the Warriors threw at him. The rust still caused a few bad shots and turnovers, but I love what I’m seeing from him;
- Hibbert was so effective in the post against the Warrior’s big men, which was baffling why they didn’t give him the ball more often. The 16 boards is mightily impressive for a guy who had averaged less than 6 boards a game for his career entering tis season. He’s gonna need to be at his best against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol against the Lakers;
- Granger played well. Still forced a few shots but they went down for him tonight. Maybe things are finally turning around for him…
- Darren Collison had a stinker and a half. Couldn’t hit a shot (1-12) all game and struggled behind screens to keep up with his man. After a stellar start to the season Collison has put in a string of sub-par games. He’s still their best PG though, so hopefully he can get his act together soon;
- Amundson lost the battle against Rush. The porn-star lookalike missed all of his field goals in 5 minutes of game time (though he grabbed a rebound), while the pothead hit both of his threes for 6 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes. I still liked the trade though.
The toughest part of the schedule so far is looming — @Lakers, Magic, @Bulls, @Celtics, @Magic (OUCH). The old Pacers would probably have gone 0-5 for this stretch, but I have confidence the new Pacers can pull out a couple of victories.