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Indianapolis, Indiana -- There was a different vibe of excitement that filled the arena as the Indiana Pacers opened their 2011-12 season at home playing hosts to the Detroit Pistons.
New faces and steadfast improvements from a young and promising core has Hoosier hoops fans buzzing about their professional team with a newfound sense of enthusiasm. Even their home arena has a new name.
As anticipation filled the almost capacity Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the new-look Blue and Gold did not disappoint and made true to their slogan that "big things are (indeed) coming".
From the get-go, the starting five of point guard Darren Collison, sophomore shooting guard Paul George, Danny Granger, off-season acquisition David West and Roy Hibbert jumped on a bumbling Pistons squad and was never threatened all game long en route to a 91-79 win.
West knocked down his first basket as a Pacer to open things up, as the Pacers front court established their presence in the paint to help build a 26-17 lead for the Pacers at the end of the first quarter. The Pacers never looked back.
IUPUI alumni and newly-acquired hometown hoops hero George Hill provided a lot of energy as the Pacers showcased their deep and talented bench led by Tyler Hansbrough's 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The Pacers' lead went up to as much as 24 points in the fourth quarter as five players chipped in double digit points anchored by Hibbert and Granger who had 16 a piece.
The Pacers were also impressive on the defensive end as their collective team effort forced the Pistons into committing 16 turnovers that led to easy transition baskets.
Pacers basketball seems to indeed be back on the upswing. The team is playing with the kind of chemistry that hasn't been seen around here since a sniper that donned the #31 jersey last did his pre-game "pysche-out" ritual with team media relations director David Benner.
"It takes winning," George Hill said after the game.
"I'm from here. We bleed basketball here. The city is waiting to support us again and get Indiana basketball back to where it used to be. We just need to keep winning, go out in the community, touch lives, have a clean nose and just have fun," he added.
This squad definitely appears to have the makings of a special team. With the nice combination of hard-nosed hustle players, veteran leadership, unselfish play and a nice group of high quality individuals that "get it", it's safe to say that Pacers basketball is definitely back on the right track and will be enjoying more playoff-type crowds like tonight throughout the season.
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(photo credit: Pacers.com)