Actually, to me, the scale I'm talking about looks closer to that than you might expect. Both Purdue and the Pacers played last night, and both got fairly different results. The Pacers beat the Heat by ten in a game that probably wasn't even that close, and Purdue lost to Ohio St. by ten in a game that may or may not have been closer than that.
Let's start with some good news. The Pacers finally looked like the team they were advertised to be coming into this season. Paul George looked like an absolute stud on both ends of the court, pouring in 29 points and limiting LeBron to 22. You don't usually get congratulated for letting your guy put up twenty-plus points, but when he's hands down the best basketball player on the planet right now (and maybe ever), that's not too shabby. The Pacers bigs and bench came to play, and forefront in my mind, there was not the first hint of intimidation.
I kept having flashbacks of when Purdue welcomed Duke into Mackey Arena a few years ago. That was a team that should have had all the talent to beat Duke at home, and probably relatively easily so. But, instead, the team came out tight and timid, and the game was over by halftime. And not in the way I would have preferred. I was worried that the Pacers, feeling the pressure of following up that playoff performance last year, might come out that same way. Thankfully, that didn't come to be. This team showed, even without Danny Granger, they are for real. They've been on a roll lately, and I think a huge part of that is figuring out how this team works without Granger. When he comes back,* there will probably be another adjustment period as they reintegrate him into the lineup, but I don't expect that to take nearly as long. The best example of this attitude was Lance Stephenson totally brushing off Dwyane Wade after a hard foul. I wish there was a video of it, but apparently it wasn't YouTube-worthy with the non-reaction. It was nice to see that poise and to see what that poise can accomplish. Hopefully they'll bring that same poise for seven games later that they couldn't sustain last year.
*Reportedly in a month or so, but I don't know how much stock to put into that.
On the other side of things, Purdue lost, but I wasn't too disappointed in that. With a team this young, just the fact they had their chances was enough for me to see. I don't write too long on this game, but a lot of the first half came down to missed shots and hurried passes, both of which should get better with time. The second half was much better, Purdue a few times pulling within six or seven points. But, those chances would slip away mostly from the over-exuberance of a freshman point guard. Momentum is a good thing to have, but sometimes smelling blood in the water can lead to careless mistakes, particularly for a young player. And as good as Little Johnson is and is going to be, he definitely fell prey to that trap. So, Purdue might have started the Big Ten season 1-2, but I feel okay about how this is going to go. We're not going to threaten for the conference title or probably not even to make the big dance, but this team could well be better served to