October 09, 2008
Yes, it's only a preseason pairing, and an early one at that; but the New Orleans Hornets look like a team that could waltz to the Western Conference finals in its sleep, while the Indiana Pacers look like a team that would have a tough time learn how to sleep after downing copious amounts of boxed wine and Tylenol PM. That was a distressing game for the Hoosiers, even by preseason standards.
The Hornets had a lot to do with that. This was a team brimming with energy, pride, and heart; especially by the aforementioned "preseason standards."
Hilton Armstrong was out there acting as if this preseason was his personal last chance. Chris Paul was barking out orders and getting his teammates in line even as the lead reached into the deep 30s in the second half. Devin Brown continually attacked a soft Pacers D in early transition. Melvin Ely cared. Two-time champion James Posey left about 19 foot-pounds of DNA on the middle of the court after diving for a loose ball with his team up 36 points and four minutes to go.
I don't know if it was the team's pregame powwow with Barack Obama, or some sense of duty that comes naturally when you put on those legendary Hornet pinstripes, but these guys came to play in a way that I haven't seen live even in some regular season games. Even in the playoffs!
And as inspired as the Hornets were, the Pacers were just as disorganized. I know Mike Dunleavy (he just took over as Clipper GM, he had an excuse) and Troy Murphy were out, but 11 assists to 25 turnovers? 31 percent shooting? 3-21 from behind the arc? You were playing in a farmhouse! There was no arc! They had to knock the ball out of the basket with a broomstick after every made goal!
Those are lame jokes, but this game was played inside an artifact. The Pepsi Coliseum is a brilliant place to see a game, any game in any sport, much less an NBA rout. Imagine if the game had been close! Lots of exclamation points in this BtB, I agree, but the setting deserves our enthusiasm.
There wasn't a bad seat in the house, every sneaker squeak or bleacher catcall could be heard distinctly in every corner of the building, and the place just oozed with history and a bit of gravitas. Especially when the Pacers showed old ABA highlights of the team playing in the same arena on the Jumbotron; which was essentially a projection-style TV the same size as the ones you see hanging in threes at local rib joints.
It may not have come across in last night's Live Blog, but this was quite the experience, and it goes a bit farther than the usual preseason idea of throwing the local team inside a smaller college arena and asking that Eddie House try not to pay attention to the NCAA-legal three point line. The Pacers did a wonderful thing in heading back to the Coliseum, if only for one night, and we can only hope that this turns into a yearly thing.
(And, if the Nets know what they're doing, they'll play a game or three here before they try to sneak back into the boroughs.)
Until we see next season's preseason schedule, the Pacers have a lot of work to do. If this is truly T.J. Ford's team, the point man has to make it his own. He has to not play the martyr role, attack early in a possession, and not let Danny Granger or Dunleavy (when he returns) while the game away decided whether or not to drive or shoot from 20 feet. Because they'll shoot. Every time. Not a winning combination.
The Hornets? This could be the start of a special, special season. Pay attention.