Danny Chau writes about basketball at Plantar Fasciitis. If you haven’t been reading his stuff over there, well… catch up because it’s awesome. I recommend you start with his latest piece, which is about this year’s Golden State Warriors. Anyway, I’m extremely pumped to announce that he’s not just the biggest Semih Erden fan in America and the world’s foremost basketball/food writer, he’s the newest member of the OTN team. -Ed.
Surrendering your conscience to the game is an indescribable feeling. Focus is insular, every motion is predetermined, and the mind becomes the most powerful weapon. It’s the feeling Brandon Rush must’ve felt in the fourth quarter of his first game back after a five-game suspension.
Taking down a defensive rebound, Rush glided down court like a wraith pulling up for a quick 3-point shot. It was a perfect instance, in the aftermath of one of the most compelling offensive performances in NBA history. Rush stopped. There wasn’t a Nugget in sight. In that one moment, Brandon Rush was water. 5:51 left in the game. Pacers with a 128-96 advantage. Rush, who hadn’t sniffed the court since last month, scored his 16th point easily. It was just one of those nights.
The Pacers, who entered the game with one of the worst offensive ratings in the league, tore a dimensional hole with their (almost) flawless third quarter shooting performance, sucking the life out of a tired Denver Nuggets team on their second game of a back-to-back.
Darren Collison was a revelation. Each shot he took was thrust forward with an increasingly familiar jackknifing motion; each with a similar result. Collison went off for 29 points, missing only two of his 14 shots. Ridiculous.
Then Mike Dunleavy Jr. happened. 31 points in two quarters happened. If only for a short while, Dunleavy conjured the spirit of Larry Legend, assumed the identity, and owned it. His performance was straight out of an NBA Live horror story. It was remarkable. It was frightening. Because surely no one wants to show up to work the next day wounded, having to admit they got lit up by Mike Dunleavy Jr.
The glory was not Dunleavy’s alone, though. The entire squad posted incredibly efficient scoring numbers, scoring 54 points in the third quarter, shooting 20-21 from the field. The lone miss, of course, belonged to Josh McRoberts at the tail end of the quarter. But he’s given a free pass for his sweet block on Arron Afflalo. Alright, maybe not.
What stood out both on the statsheet and in the game was the sheer volume of assists. 37 assists for the game. Four players had 5 assists or more. 10 out of the 11 players who notched minutes recorded 2 assists or more. The unselfishness and fluidity of play was a beauty to watch, especially coming from a team that had struggled with their passing game in recent games.
It was the perfect game. For a team still searching for an identity, this was a small taste of utopia. This high will come crashing down very soon, because the Pacers still aren’t a very good team. Obviously the Pacers can’t call upon a performance like this on a nightly basis, but looking back at the tape, they should be proud of their ball movement, the hustle of their big men on defense, and their ability to flat-out make shots. The Pacers lost consciousness, but it’ll resurface soon enough. How they choose to respond from this blessed performance remains to be seen.
For now though, let’s all celebrate. It’s not every day that we can speak of Mike Dunleavy Jr. and “legend” in the same sentence.