After suffering their first losing streak of the season to Eastern Conference rivals Miami and Detroit, the Indiana Pacers looked to bounce back at home against the Houston Rockets to get their season back on the right track and keep their stronghold of the best record in the East.
There were plenty of highlights and positives on Friday night for the Pacers in their first game against the Rockets since dropping two preseason games to them in Manila and Taiwan back in October. For starters, the Pacers held the Rockets to a season low 81 points, while dropping a season-high 114 to snap their two-game skid.
Apart from highlight plays, great overall defensive effort and getting positive contributions across the board, the biggest morale boost of the night was undoubtedly the return of former All-Star and veteran leader, Danny Granger, who played his first regular season game after missing all but five games last season due to a left knee injury.
Granger, who played in four preseason games and was beginning to come along until suffering a setback when he pulled his calf muscle, was feted with a nice round of applause and a standing ovation from the hometown crowd upon first entering the game off the bench in the first quarter.
His first signature play came just moments after when he blocked Dwight Howard in the post from the weak side, which drew cheers and chants of “Danny! Danny! Danny!” from the same adoring crowd he has played in front of for all of his nine seasons in the league.
“It was touching,” Granger said after the game. “I’ve been here for a long time and obviously what I’ve been going through the last year has been hard and it’s good to always have the support of Indiana. I love Indiana with all my heart.”
Granger finished with five points on a 1-of-7 shooting and looked very much like a player who has missed more than a season’s worth of games, but for the already potent Pacers, slowly building Granger back up is a luxury they can afford. The top team in the Eastern Conference standings doesn’t need too much from him at the moment, and eventually it’s his presence, veteran leadership and experience they’re banking on come post-season.
Check out my exclusive interview with Granger after the game! (LINK)