The Pacers have played three games as they head into November, and they already have more wins than five NFL teams.
Indiana defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in their home opener on Saturday night, 99-86. It was the second win in a row for the Pacers.
For the third straight game, coach Jim O'Brien went with the same starting five, and really only used three players from the bench. T.J. Ford, Tyler Hansbrough, and Paul George all played significant minutes. Four of the five starters finished with double figures in scoring, and the fifth (Josh McRoberts) barely missed a double-double, with nine points and nine rebounds.
Danny Granger led the way for the Pacers again, putting up 22 points. Roy Hibbert stayed active with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and a team-high five assists. Darren Collison had a stellar game with 15 points, four assists, and four steals. It appears we finally have a healthy Mike Dunleavy on the floor, as he chipped in 16 points and nine rebounds for the Blue & Gold.
Though they were cold in the first quarter, the Pacers turned it on from that point forward. After ending the first half tied, they outscored the Sixers 27-15 in the third quarter. Third quarter success has been key for them so far. In their loss to the Spurs on Wednesday, they were outscored by ten points in the third quarter, but in both of their wins this year, they have dominated the third quarter.
The Pacers outperformed the 76ers in most statistical categories. They had more fast break points, more points in the paint, more rebounds, more assists, less turnovers, and more steals. That is a great recipe for success.
I think the best thing to take away from this game though, is the fact that the Pacers won despite only shooting 29 percent from three-point range, while the 76ers shot 55 percent from downtown. The Pacers were able to get to the foul line 25 times, which was nine more trips than the 76ers had. They weren't hitting their shots from downtown, but they were attacking the basket, and getting the ball inside.
Austin Croshere (who assisted long time Pacers' Play-by-Play radio announcer Mark Boyle on 93.1FM) pointed out that good things were always happening when Indiana got the ball in the paint. One of three things would always happen: they would get a basket from Hibbert, a great assist from Hibbert, or they would get fouled for a trip to the line.
The good things we have seen from the Pacers through the first week of the 2010-11 NBA season have been missing in recent years. The defense still needs a lot of work, and yes, it was just the 76ers, but a 2-1 record is quite good considering their first three games. A tough opener against a savvy Spurs team, another road trip out to Charlotte, and finally the home opener.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Brandon Rush situation next week, after his suspension is lifted. The Pacers picked up the option on his contract, so one would assume that they plan on keeping him this season.
The way Dunleavy and George have been playing though, you have to wonder where he is going to fit into the rotation. We still have Lance Stephenson and A.J. Price behind Collison and Ford on top of that. I wouldn't expect Brandon to start, or even play a lot of minutes after his suspension is up, but he might slowly get a few minutes during the first month or two. It all depends on his performance, and the performance and health of all of those guys in front of him.
The Pacers will have the next few days off before their next game, which is another date with the 76ers. That game will be in Philadelphia on Wednesday, November 3, at 7 p.m. ET.
It's hard to beat the same team twice in less than a week, especially when the second game is on the road. But if the Pacers bring the same attitude and game plan, they could mess around and have themselves a winning streak.