The new Pacers gave fans on Saturday everything they could hope for, from a decisive win over the NBA champion Boston Celtics, to a Pacers performance filled with hustle, teamwork and promise. One particular moment of hustle lost Danny Granger his two front teeth, and if that’s the sort of play we’re to expect from this year’s team, the Pacers better have a cadre of doctors, dentists and chiropractors at the ready.
Granger left momentarily, then returned; his 20 points led all scorers.
Head coach Jim O’Brien’s first unit — Granger, T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Marquis Daniels and Troy Murphy — established hegemony early and the squad never lost that control, even with the Celtics pulling close toward the end of the first half. Despite star forward/guard Mike Dunleavy still out nursing his knee, the Pacers seem replete with talented players.
Daniels, starting for Dunleavy, was explosive, with numerous blocked shots and steals to go with his 10 rebounds and 13 points. He hounded Ray Allen, the Celtics silky-smooth shooter, who scored but 10 points.
Overall, the Celtics’ play was lackluster, just shy of moribund, as they allowed the scrappy Pacers to coast to victory. Consummate complainer Paul Pierce shot just 20 percent — three for 15 — and was even deplorable from the free throw line: seven for 12.
So many new players … it’s a rush just to see the lineup appear before game time on the big center court screen.
Josh McRoberts: This 6-foot-10 forward and Duke University star was born in Indianapolis in 1987 and played for Carmel High School, where he was named the National High School Senior Athlete of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association.
Brandon Rush: This 6-foot-6 rookie guard was selected as a Wooden All American while at Kansas University. His brother Kareem played with the Pacers last year.
Roy Hibbert: This 7-foot-2 center joins the Pacers for his rookie year. Last year, Hibbert finished his career ranked 15th in scoring, eighth in rebounding and fourth in blocked shots on Georgetown’s all-time lists.
For more about the players, go to www.nba.com/pacers/.
Only center Jeff Foster, now nine years into his career, might give Pacers fans that certain sense of déjà vu.
With this level of hustle, balanced scoring and team-oriented play, by Christmas we could have a Pacers present we might not otherwise have anticipated.
Now if Santa would only bring Danny Granger two new front teeth.
Tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 5) the Pacers battle the Phoenix Suns.