Around these parts, we like to think that our Indiana Pacers are building into something really special, a team that can stand toe-to-toe with superpowers of the NBA. After all, a half-decade of basketball darkness was punctuated by Frank Vogel's ascendancy to the head coach's throne two seasons ago, and the team's trajectory has pointed upwards ever since. Once the playoffs start, Hoosiers are pretty confident that we're going to see some exciting and competitive games, if not something really big. Of course, in order to reach that zenith, the Pacers need to grasp the young 2012-13 season with gusto and start chocking up the wins. So far, so good, as Indiana opened the campaign on Halloween night with a 90-88 road win over the Toronto Raptors.
Of course, as the final score indicates, this game was anything but an easy triumph for the Pacers. In fact, Indiana trailed for much of the game and found themselves staring at a 10-point deficit with just six minutes to play. That's when experience and veteran leadership, two trite but true constructs, came to the fore in the person of forward David West. En route to a game-high 25 points, West fairly dominated the fourth quarter, pouring in 14 points in the final period. That set up hometown hero George Hill to provide the final piece of the triumph, a layup with two seconds left that put the Blue and Gold up by two. In addition to Hill and West, the Pacers got solid performances from Paul George (14 points) and center Roy Hibbert (14 points and five blocked shots). With Danny Granger still recovering from injury, the Pacers needed every bit of help they could get.
There was some rust for both teams, which is probably to be expected this early in the season, but the Pacers should probably feel somewhat lucky to escape with this victory against a young Raptors team who probably has little hope at real contentions this season. The Pacers were pretty solid on defense, and their offensive percentages were acceptable, but they just weren't able to put up many shots. They also drew just a handful of fouls and converted just 11 of 16 from the free throw line. In the end, their 90 points held up against the building Raptors, but the Pacers will need to score more in order to take on the game's heavyweights.
Good thing the playoffs are a still a few months off.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Pacers fan since the early 1980s and has witnessed the rise and fall of a great NBA franchise. He follows the current club closely but sometimes misses the black spaceship of Market Square Arena.
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