I expected the Pacers to lose this one, only because they were due for a letdown after resting yesterday and having secured homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. And of course, the 76ers were out for revenge after losing to Indy in Philly just a few nights ago and desperate to get back into form before the playoffs. So yes, the loss was expected — after all, the Pacers had to lose eventually — and but I think the fact that they came back to send the game overtime was a promising sign for this squad heading into the playoffs.
A few observations from this 109-106 OT loss:
- David West just had his best game as a Pacer with a season high 32 points and 12 rebounds on 13-22 shooting, including several clutch shots down the stretch to keep the game alive.
- After playing so well almost the entirety of April, Danny Granger had a shocker with 4 points 2-12 shooting, though he did have 11 rebounds.
- Roy Hibbert also had a shocker with 11 points but shot just 2-10.
- Paul George came alive in the second quarter, rallying the Pacers from a double digit deficit in the second quarter to give the team a one point lead heading into the half.
- Tyler Hansbrough had one of those “good Tyler” games with 17 points on 8-12 shooting. April is usually Tyler’s time (remember that big game he had against the Bulls in the playoffs last year?) so let’s hope he can keep it up. As long as he keeps his energy and has that mid range jumper going he will be a valuable asset for the Pacers no matter who they face in the first round. If he doesn’t, well…(shudder)
- Darren Collison made an unexpected return a day after coach Vogel said Hill will continue to start over Collison for the remainder of the season. He was pretty good too, putting up 8 points and 2 assists (but also 2 turnovers) without missing a shot in 16 minutes. I think Collison has received a lot of unnecessary flak for this play and will prove himself to be a key member of the bench squad in the playoffs, provided he can remain healthy. Against the second units and second string point guards I think he can still do a lot of damage.
- George Hill tried to play hero but may have been the reason the Pacers lost this one. He had 10 points and 5 assists in 37 minutes but inexplicably went for a 28-foot three-pointer late in OT with the Pacers down by one that came off the front of the rim and led to a fast break dunk at the other end. It was early in the shot clock and there was no excuse for taking that shot, not when David West was in beast mode and had sent the game into OT in the first place.
- Philly played one heck of a game. I only watched portions of it but it seemed they couldn’t miss open shots and executed their offense extremely well. This might be the game that turns the corner for them. That said, given how well they played and that the refs screwed the Pacers more than a few times tonight, it must be comforting for the Pacers to know that they took the game to OT and almost won it.
- So now the Pacers are 41-23 with home games against the Pistons and Bulls remaining. My guess is Vogel will keep the rotation roughly the same to give the team some much needed momentum heading into the first round. I also predict they will beat the Pistons, but whether they can overcome the Bulls (who might be resting a lot of players as they are almost certain to secure the top seed) is another question I’m not sure I can predict. As the Bulls have shown all year, they are still lethal no matter which players they put on the floor.
- Am I the only one who doesn’t think the Pacers will automatically advance against a Dwight Howard-less Magic in the first round (provided they play the Magic in the first round)? I dunno, but a streaky Magic squad with nothing to lose, coupled with the Pacers’ relative inexperience, makes me very nervous. As we have seen, this team can rain it from downtown and the Pacers have struggled with that, losing 3 of 4 games in the season series. With Howard out of the way, the Magic will only be more focused on the task at hand, and if the Pacers take them for granted I wouldn’t be shocked to see an upset.
- Call me a pessimist but I think fans are getting a little over their heads by calling this squad a title contender. Don’t get me wrong, I want them to be a title contender as much as any fan, but I just don’t think they have the experience and fire power just yet to contend with the likes of the Bulls and the Heat. Could they beat these guys a couple of times in a 7-game series? I think they can, but I believe they need a solid playoff run this year and a decent signing or two in the offseason to reach that next level. Let’s see if they can win their first round series first because I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion.