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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Quick Takes on the First Week of the 2005-06 NBA Season

I have a message for the rejoicing Clippers fans, the disconsolate Knicks fans and anyone else who is overreacting to the start of the NBA season: "It's early." Nobody has clinched a playoff berth yet and nobody has been eliminated. Every year there are a few legitimate contenders who get off to slow starts due to injuries, scheduling quirks or overconfidence and every year there are a few legitimate pretenders who come roaring out of the gate only to sputter down the stretch.

Larry Brown's New York Knicks have stumbled out of the gate 0-5, which naturally has led to much hand wringing among fans and the media. Last time I checked the NBA season is 82 games; the Chicago Bulls started out 0-9 last year and rallied to not only make the playoffs but to have home court advantage in the first round. As noted in Friday's USA Today, the 76ers lost the first five games that Larry Brown coached in his initial season there and the Pacers started out 1-6 in Brown's first season in Indiana. The Knicks overhauled their roster in the offseason and the players are neither used to playing with each other nor playing "the right way" (as Brown's oft-repeated mantra goes). I still think that the Knicks will win more games than they did last year and sneak into the playoffs as an eighth seed. The Knicks are losing some close games down the stretch now, but their attention to detail and ability to perform in those situations will improve as Brown makes his imprint on the team's collective mentality.

Both of last year's Finalists are off to great starts--the Spurs have picked up right where they left off and the Detroit Pistons pushed their record to a league best 6-0 on Friday night with an 84-81 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, who had an early lead on the jet-lagged Pistons before completely falling apart down the stretch (I think that the Disney commercial in which the Seven Dwarfs are picked ahead of Julius Erving is based on Portland's personnel decisions over the past few years). I picked Detroit to finish fifth in the East, so I suppose I have some explaining to do. It is clear that the Detroit players are very focused on two goals--reclaiming the NBA championship and proving that they can be very successful without departed coach Larry Brown. Since the Pistons have all of the key players from last year's squad--and since those players are displaying great commitment to the aforementioned goals--Detroit has been able to shift into a gear, particularly in the fourth quarter, that other teams don't have. The way that Detroit is playing is very impressive--but their goal is not to win 50 games or a division title or one playoff series; this team has made two straight Finals appearances and anything less than a return to the Finals is a step backwards. That may sound like a harsh standard to set, but when Larry Brown arrived the Pistons had already been a solid playoff team under the coaching of Rick Carlisle. Brown's coaching--and the addition of Rasheed Wallace--put the team over the top.

The key question about Detroit--which will not be answered in the first month or two of the season--is how will this team perform when it faces adversity, such as an injury to a key player or the inevitable two or three game losing streak. Yes, point guard Chauncey Billups said "If it ain't rough, it ain't right" during last year's Finals (which became the title of one of the early 20 Second Timeout entries) but that was with Larry Brown calling the shots. Will Flip Saunders be able to maintain order during tough times? Saunders coached a Minnesota team that made it to the Western Conference Finals one year and failed to make the playoffs--with the same key players--the next season. I still question whether Saunders will be able to lead Detroit on a deep playoff run. If he succeeds I will be the first to give him and the Pistons credit, but a 6-0 start--while commendable--does not address the question of whether the Pistons will be able to overcome challenges the way that they did when Brown coached them during the previous two seasons.

Kobe Bryant, notwithstanding a poor shooting performance on Friday night in an 85-81 loss at Philadelphia, has been sensational and has willed the Lakers into the top eight in the West. There is talk that he is playing better than he did last season but, other than his elevated field goal percentage (due in no small part to a drastic reduction in his three point shot attempts), he is doing the same things that he did in 2004-05 before an ankle injury sidelined him--scoring, rebounding, defending and passing to the open man when he is double teamed. Don't forget that before he got hurt and Rudy Tomjanovich resigned the Lakers were securely among the top eight teams in the West. Phil Jackson has stated that he would like for Kobe to shoot .500 from the field this year; that will probably not happen because Kobe is relied upon to shoot so many shots under duress and with the shot clock running down, but I would not be surprised to see him shoot over .470 for the first time in his career.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:48 AM

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Will the Supersized Big East Become the Greatest Conference Ever?

The Big East Conference has expanded to 16 teams, causing much speculation that it could become the greatest basketball conference ever. This led me to wonder how exactly such a designation can be earned. Does being the greatest conference mean earning the most NCAA Tournament berths in a single season? Does it mean producing the most Final Four teams over a period of time? If the new Big East does become the greatest conference, which conference is it surpassing? These questions formed the basis for an article that I wrote for the November issue of Eastern Basketball, the "younger brother" of Basketball Times.

February 19, 2018 note: The link originally posted to order a copy of the November 2005 issue of Eastern Basketball no longer works; here is the original article:

Will the Supersized Big East Become the Greatest Conference Ever?

by David Friedman 

Remember when conferences consisted of 8-10 teams? This year the Big East expands to 16 members. If conferences get any bigger they will need to use the U.N. General Assembly to hold their Presidents' meetings.

The Big Ten sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament four different times--1990, 1994, 1999 and 2001--and the Big East accomplished this feat in 1991. The supersized Big East is expected to break this record in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, which has led some to suggest that it will become the greatest conference ever. That is a bold prediction because the new Big East has a formidable task just to match the excellence attained by the original Big East during the 1980s. The Big East had seven charter members in 1980--Boston College, Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Syracuse--before adding Villanova in 1981 and Pittsburgh in 1983. The upstart league quickly asserted itself as a formidable competitor to traditional power conferences such as the ACC, Big Ten, SEC and PAC-10; in the Big East's inaugural year, three of its seven teams earned NCAA bids. St. John's lost to Purdue in the second round, Syracuse lost to Iowa in the Sweet 16 and Georgetown made it to the Elite Eight before also bowing to Iowa--not a bad showing but this was just a taste of things to come.

In 1985, the Big East placed six of its nine teams in the NCAA Tournament, became the first conference to provide three of the teams in the Final Four and topped it off by producing both participants in the championship game; that contest turned out to be one of the most memorable upsets in NCAA history, with Villanova shooting a championship game record .786 from the field to defeat the defending champion, Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown Hoyas, 66-64. Big East teams went 18-5 in the 1985 NCAA Tournament. No conference has ever won more games in a single NCAA Tournament; second place is 15 wins, accomplished by the Big Ten in 1989 and 2000.

The Big East had tremendous individual star power in 1985 as well: future Dream Team members Ewing and Chris Mullin (St. John's) shared Big East Player of the Year honors, Villanova's Ed Pinckney (the 1985 Final Four Most Outstanding Player) and Syracuse's Dwayne "Pearl" Washington joined them on the All-Big East First Team and future NBA players Walter Berry (who won Big East Player of the Year in 1986), Bill Wennington and Michael Adams made the All-Big East Second Team. The 1985 Big East also had three coaches who eventually earned Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement: Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, St. John's Lou Carnesecca and Georgetown's John Thompson.

Some Ground Rules for Comparing Conferences 

One challenge in comparing conferences, teams and players from different eras is that NCAA basketball has changed so dramatically over the years: from 1967-68 to 1975-76 the slam dunk was illegal during games and pre-game warm-ups, the 45 second shot clock was first used in 1985-86 (and then changed to 35 seconds in 1993-94) and the three point shot was introduced nationally in 1986-87--and these are just a few of the on-court changes. There have also been major shifts in the structure of post-season play. The NCAA Tournament field consisted of only eight teams from 1939-1950. In 1951, the field doubled to 16 and from 1953-1974 between 22 and 25 teams participated each year. Then came rapid growth starting in 1975--from 32 teams (1975-78) to 40 teams (1979) to 48 teams (1980-82) to 52 teams (1983) to 53 teams (1984)--culminating in 1985 with the creation of the 64 team field. In 2001, a 65th team was added via a play-in game. Younger fans who have grown up watching "The Road to the Final Four" may be surprised to learn that the phrase "Final Four" has not always been a part of college basketball's lexicon. Its first documented, official use came on page five of the 1975 Official Collegiate Basketball Guide--and the phrase was not capitalized until the 1978 Official Collegiate Basketball Guide.

In 1966, Texas Western became the first team with five black starters to win the NCAA title, an achievement that literally changed the face of college basketball by shattering a senseless taboo. If we arbitrarily declare 1966 to be the beginning of the modern era, we can split the past 40 years nearly in half by dividing it into pre-1986-87 and post-1986-87. Post-1986-87 includes the shot clock, the three point shot and the 64 team field. Now that we have a manageable period of time to examine, neatly divided in two, the next step is to define our terms. What makes a conference great? The most emphasis has to be placed on winning championships and generating legitimate title contenders. Another important consideration is the conference's depth. A great conference should have electrifying star players and fierce, competitive rivalries between its members.

Great Conferences of the Early Modern Era (1965-66--1985-86) 

The ACC earned more Final Four berths than any other conference during this period, with four schools combining for 14 appearances and three championships. The PAC-10 (and its predecessors, the PAC-8 and the AAWU) made 11 Final Four appearances--all of them by UCLA, which won eight championships (one of the Final Four appearances was later vacated by the NCAA). The Big Ten sent six different teams to a total of eight Final Fours, winning three titles. While UCLA was the dominant team of this era, the ACC and Big Ten were deeper, stronger conferences: 
  1. In 1973, three ACC teams won at least 23 games--North Carolina State (27-0), North Carolina (25-8) and Maryland (23-7). North Carolina State, led by the sensational David Thompson, defeated Maryland 76-74 in the ACC championship game, but Maryland earned the conference's NCCA Tournament bid because North Carolina State was ineligible for postseason play that year due to recruiting violations. Maryland made it to the Elite Eight. North Carolina, ranked 11th in the final regular season AP poll, finished third in the NIT. 
  2. In 1974, the ACC could very well have provided two NCAA Finalists like the Big East did in 1985--but at that time each conference could receive only one NCAA Tournament bid. That made the ACC championship game pivotal not only in determining who went to the tournament but very possibly who would be that year's national champion. Not surprisingly, this situation produced one of the classic games in NCAA history, North Carolina State's 103-100 overtime victory over Maryland. Thompson scored 29 points for North Carolina State and 7-3 center Tom Burleson led the way for the Wolfpack with 38 points and 13 rebounds. Six All-Americans and 10 future NBA draft picks played in the game; Maryland's John Lucas (18 points and 10 assists) became the number one overall pick in the 1976 NBA draft. North Carolina State defeated Marquette 76-64 to win the national championship while Maryland, ranked fourth in the final regular season AP poll, did not participate in postseason play. North Carolina State finished the year 30-1, while Maryland went 23-5. 
  3. The NCAA changed its rules in 1975 and allowed two teams from the same conference to receive tournament bids; five years later the NCAA permitted more than two teams from the same conference to receive tournament bids. In 1976, the Big Ten became the first conference to send two teams to the Final Four--and both made it to the national championship game. Indiana, led by future pros Scott May, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner, Bobby Wilkerson and Tom Abernethy, went 32-0 and beat Big Ten rival Michigan 86-68 to claim Bob Knight's first national title. Indiana is the last undefeated team to win the national championship. Indiana and Michigan combined for a 9-1 NCAA tournament record, the most wins by a conference in one tournament in the 1970s.
  4. In 1978, four of the seven ACC teams won at least 20 games and all seven finished over .500, for a combined winning percentage of .673. North Carolina (23-8) lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, North Carolina State (21-10) fell 101-93 to Texas in the NIT championship game and ACC champion Duke (27-7) lost 94-88 to Kentucky in the NCAA championship game. Virginia (20-8), the ACC's fourth 20-win team, dropped a 70-68 overtime decision to Georgetown in the NIT.
  5. Six of the eight ACC teams in 1980 won at least 20 games; five made it to the NCAA Tournament and the sixth, Virginia, won the NIT. Duke and Clemson each advanced to the Elite Eight before being eliminated. The ACC's winning percentage in 1980 was .654, paced by Maryland's 24-7 record.
  6. In 1981, the ACC had two 29 win teams and five 20-plus win teams. Four ACC teams went to the NCAA Tournament and two more went to the NIT. Two ACC teams reached the Final Four: Virginia (29-4) lost 78-65 to North Carolina (29-8) but defeated Louisiana State 78-74 in the third place game; North Carolina lost the NCAA Championship Game 63-50 to Isiah Thomas and Indiana.
  7. The 1982 ACC boasted four 20-plus win teams, including two 30 game winners led by future NBA All-Stars--North Carolina (32-2), which had Michael Jordan and James Worthy, and Virginia (30-4), which had 7-4 Ralph Sampson. All four 20-game winners made it to the NCAA Tournament, but only North Carolina enjoyed an extended run. Boosted by the jump shot that freshman Jordan later said put him on the map, Dean Smith won his first national championship as the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown 63-62.
  8. The ACC enjoyed similar success in 1983, but produced a most unlikely--and memorable--national champion. Five ACC teams won 20-plus games and four were selected for the NCAA Tournament. The fifth, Wake Forest, won three games in the NIT before getting blown out by Fresno State. Three ACC teams made it to the Elite Eight, but only North Carolina State made it past that round. The Wolfpack shocked everyone by upsetting heavily favored Houston 54-52 in the NCAA championship game; Houston, known as Phi Slama Jama because of the team's tremendous dunkers, had Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, who were both named to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players list in 1996. North Carolina State finished with a 26-10 record, becoming the first team with at least 10 losses to win the NCAA title (since then Villanova had 10 losses in 1985 and Kansas had 11 losses in 1988).
  9. In 1984, the ACC produced five 20-plus win teams and none of its eight teams had a losing record. All five made it to the NCAA Tournament and two made it to the Elite Eight. Wake Forest lost in that round and Virginia lost 49-47 in overtime to Houston in the Final Four. Jordan's Tar Heels went 14-0 in conference play and 28-3 overall, but lost to Indiana 72-68 in the NCAA Tournament. 
We have already mentioned the tremendous season enjoyed by the Big East in 1985, possibly the greatest single season by a conference. The SEC is similar to the PAC-10 in the sense that one team accounted for most of its NCAA Tournament success during this era--Kentucky, which made four trips to the Final Four and won the 1978 national championship. In 1986, the SEC posted a 12-4 NCAA Tournament record, sending LSU, Kentucky and Auburn to the Elite Eight. LSU advanced to the Final Four before losing to "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison's Louisville Cardinals, the eventual national champions.

Great Conferences of the Recent Modern Era (1986-87--2004-05) 

Four ACC teams have made 20 Final Four appearances and won six championships since 1986-87, while seven Big Ten teams earned 15 Final Four trips and three titles. No other conference has even 10 Final Four appearances during this time. Duke has accounted for three of the ACC's NCAA championships and nine of the Final Four berths, leading all teams in both categories. North Carolina is second in Final Fours (seven) and tied for second with Connecticut and Kentucky in championships (two).

ACC teams won at least 10 games in the NCAA tournament for seven straight years, 1989-1995. No other conference has come close to putting together such a streak. Duke won back-to-back titles in 1991-92 and North Carolina made it three straight for the ACC by claiming the 1993 crown. The ACC sent at least one team to the Final Four from 1988-1995. The rivalry between Duke and North Carolina is one of the best in sports and the drama is only heightened by the fact that most years the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are not only fighting for conference supremacy but are both viable national championship contenders--including 2005, when North Carolina won the title and Duke made it to the Sweet 16.

As for the Big Ten, let's start with the four years that the conference earned a record seven NCAA Tournament bids, the mark that the newly formed Big East is expected to break. In 1990, only Minnesota made it to the Elite Eight and the seven teams combined for an 8-7 record in the tournament. The Big Ten went 11-7 in the tournament in 1994, with Michigan and Purdue reaching the Elite Eight. In 1999, the Big Ten again sent two teams to the Elite Eight and this time both--Michigan State and Ohio State--made it to the Final Four before losing, leaving the Big Ten with a 13-7 tournament mark. Two years later, the Big Ten went 10-7 and sent two teams to the Elite Eight, with Michigan State advancing to the Final Four before being eliminated. The accomplishment of sending seven teams to the NCAA Tournament on four different occasions is somewhat diminished by the early exits of most of those teams and the failure of any of them to make it to the title game in the years in question.

The Big Ten had more impressive showings in 1989 and 2000 despite sending fewer teams overall. Michigan's Glen Rice set single season NCAA Tournament records for points (184; 30.7 ppg) and three pointers made (27) in 1989 while leading the Wolverines to the national title. Illinois made it to that year's Final Four and four of the Big Ten's five entrants advanced to the Sweet 16, giving the Big Ten an outstanding 15-4 tournament record. In 2000, the Big Ten went 15-5 in the tournament, producing three Elite Eight teams, two Final Four teams and the eventual national champion, Michigan State.

Who can forget Michigan’s Fab Five teams? Who can name the "other two" who played alongside current NBA players Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose? (Ray Jackson and Jimmy King) The Fab Five Era began with lofty expectations but only produced championship game losses by Michigan in 1992 and 1993. In 1992, Ohio State and Indiana joined the Wolverines in the Elite Eight and Indiana made it to the Final Four; in 1993, Indiana returned to the Elite Eight but lost in that round. The Big Ten went 14-5 in the 1992 tournament and 10-5 in the 1993 tournament.

During most of this period, PAC-10 teams tended to make early exits from the NCAA Tournament. Notable exceptions to this pattern occurred in 1995 and 1997. In 1995, five PAC-10 teams compiled a 9-4 NCAA Tournament record, headlined by UCLA winning the conference's first national title since John Wooden's Bruins claimed the 1975 crown. The PAC-10 did even better in 1997, with Arizona winning the championship, UCLA joining the Wildcats in the Elite Eight and five conference teams combining to win 13 tournament games while losing only four. The PAC-10 went 13-5 in 2001, sending three teams to the Elite Eight--but only Arizona advanced, eventually losing to Duke in the championship game.

The SEC enjoyed a great five year stretch from 1994-98, with Kentucky (two) and Arkansas (one) winning three titles; each team also lost once in the championship game during that time. That period accounts for five of the SEC's nine Final Four appearances during the recent modern era.

The Big East has enjoyed notable success in the recent modern era. In 1991, the Big East tied a record by sending seven teams to the NCAA tournament but none of them made it to the Final Four. St. John's and Seton Hall reached the Elite Eight and the seven teams finished with an 11-7 tournament record. Like the Big Ten, the Big East's most impressive seasons are not the ones that involved earning seven tournament bids. In 1999, five Big East teams went 10-4 in the NCAA Tournament, with Connecticut winning the championship and St. John's also making the Elite Eight. Syracuse won the 2003 championship, capping a 12-3 performance by four Big East teams in that year’s tournament. Connecticut made it two titles in a row for the Big East in 2004; that year six Big East teams went 12-5 in the tournament.

The Challenge 

So what does the new Big East have to do to become the greatest conference of all-time? Sending a record eight, nine or ten teams to the NCAA Tournament is not sufficient unless several of those teams advance to the Elite Eight and the Final Four. For single season excellence it will be difficult to match the 1985 Big East's combination of three Final Four teams, two Dream Teamers sharing conference Player of the Year honors and one very memorable NCAA championship game. The teams from the new Big East must make 20-25 Final Four appearances and win a half dozen or so national championships in the next two decades to rival the ACC's sustained excellence.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:48 AM

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sixers Spoil Indiana's Home Opener

An enthusiastic sellout crowd of 18,345 at Conseco Fieldhouse expected to see Indiana, fresh off of a road victory over the Miami Heat, defeat the winless Phildelphia 76ers in the Pacers' home opener--but the Sixers played with tremendous energy and took advantage of 20 Indiana turnovers to win 111-109. Allen Iverson struggled from the field, shooting 11-29, but he produced 29 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and three steals as the Sixers provided Maurice Cheeks his first win as Sixers coach. Iverson hit the deck a few times after strong drives to the hoop, but shook off the bumps and bruises to become the first player to play all 48 minutes of a regulation game this season. Chris Webber had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Sixers, while Jermaine O'Neal led the Pacers with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Indiana point guard Jamaal Tinsley had 21 points, six assists and three steals before fouling out and Stephen Jackson scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers made a furious run after trailing by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.

A few nights ago, the Sixers played their home opener before a similarly enthusiastic crowd and dropped a 117-108 decision in overtime to the Milwaukee Bucks. Several Sixers legends--including Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Moses Malone--were present at the game to offer support to their former teammate Cheeks in his debut as the Sixers head coach. During the pre-game media availability session at the Pacers-Sixers game, I asked Coach Cheeks to talk about how special it was to have those players return for the home opener. In light of the loss, Cheeks laughed, "That was probably the only special part of the night." Then, on a more serious note, he added, "That was special. Any time you bring back some players you played with and won a championship with, and had great times with, it's always special. To see them standing over on the side was beautiful. We had a little conversation and had a good time." Cheeks smiled before adding, "I could have used a couple of those guys." Cheeks agreed with me that it is important for teams--and the NBA in general--to continue to do things like that, to keep the legends in the forefront to preserve the history of the game. Cheeks noted, "Most teams bring former players back who had some impact on the league. Younger players see that--although they may not have any recollection of those players--and then it is explained that this guy did this and that guy did that. When we go to certain arenas and see numbers up in the rafters some of these guys are so young that they don't even know (who they are). So to bring them back and let guys see them and know who they are and some of the accomplishments that they achieved is pretty good."

Earlier in that session, Mark Montieth of the Indianapolis Star asked Coach Cheeks about Kyle Korver's shooting slump and Cheeks responded that every NBA player goes through something like that at one point or another. He said that Korver and his teammates must work together to help him get out of it. I followed up by asking if those kind of slumps are the result of a technical flaw in the shooting motion or simply a mental hurdle that the player has to overcome. Cheeks replied, "The game can play mind games on you. When you miss a few, you start thinking about it a little bit more. So the thing that you have to do--and he tried it last night, but unfortunately it didn't happen--is try to get some easier baskets. When you get easier baskets it makes the basket bigger. Kyle is kind of like us--and I think that I said this last night: when he starts making a few shots and we win a couple games, we'll be pretty good." Those words turned out to be very prophetic.

It is always interesting to watch how the players prepare for the game during warmups--not the layup line right before tipoff, but the 45 minute warmup that ends 45 minutes before gametime (players are not necessarily on the court for the whole 45 minute period). On the Sixers' side, Korver shot almost nothing but three pointers while I was watching and he made nearly every one that he took. Perhaps that was a sign of things to come, because he shot 3-5 on three-pointers during the game, finishing with 15 points while tying a career-high with nine assists. Meanwhile, on the Pacers' side, Sarunas Jasikevicius, the 29 year old rookie from Lithuania, worked on a variety of dribble drive moves, starting beyond the three-point line and pulling up for mid-range jumpers. This is an important part of his continuing development, because in the NBA he will have to be able to do more than just hit open three- pointers; when the defense denies that option he must be able to create opportunities for himself (and his teammates) off of the dribble. Assistant coach Chad Forcier told Jasikevicius what to do (for instance, left to right crossover dribble, followed by a pull up jumper off of the backboard) and then defended against him as he worked on the move; it was like watching a choreographer teaching a dancer some new steps. After that, Jasikevicius shot three-pointers from both wings and the top of the key and then sank several free throws. His shooting stroke is very pretty--a quick flick of the wrist, no wasted motion--and very accurate. His inability to keep up defensively or handle the ball against Philly's pressure defense limited him to under nine minutes playing time, but during that brief stint he sank two three-pointers in three attempts.

Jasikevicius was not the only Pacer who struggled with his ballhandling; Ron Artest had eight turnovers and, other than Tinsley, the team had difficulty whenever Philadelphia trapped or pressured ball handlers. If Tinsley has to miss extended playing time due to foul trouble or injury the Pacers could have problems against teams that pressure and trap.

After the game, the Sixers players presented the game ball to Coach Cheeks. In his postgame standup, Cheeks said, "This was a heck of a win for us. Our attention to detail was big. When we play a team like this, we know they are going to make some runs. Kyle was big for us, as was our bench. I thought Steven Hunter was phenomenal. Everyone who stepped on the floor tonight made a huge impact for us."

During his postgame press conference, Indiana Coach Rick Carlisle said, "Give Philly credit for how they came in here. They deserved to win. For three quarters they carried the game. I was glad to see us fight back in the fourth. But it's the same old story; you've got to play four quarters to win. We really picked it up in the fourth but it was too late. We all own this one. From me on down to everyone that played." He singled out poor defense and the high number of turnovers as the two biggest reasons that the Pacers lost.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:50 AM

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