So although we already have a postgame thread for the Pacers victory over the Wolves, as an out-of-stater I only get to attend 1 game a year max. So dangit, I'm posting about my night watching the Pacers at Target Center. I mean, Peck always gets away with it, why not me?
So similarly to my awesome Staples Center game I attended a couple years ago (Link to blog post on Pacers.com in my signature), tonight was the first Pacers game for my youngest daughter, who just turned two months old. Her older sisters were with the Grandparents, and my wife and I received some REALLY great tickets for the game from my mother-in-law (she knows me so well) - so this was a much needed and amazingly fun date night for us cheering on the Blue & Gold.
We arrived about an hour early and were greeted by seeing Paul George out on the court taking warmup and putting up some shots like they've been showing on FSIndiana recently. As I remarked in the game thread, he had one sequence where he hit 10 straight 3's from the left elbow and he was getting remarkable lift on his shot for someone who had just recently broken a leg. Not "full lift" jumpers, of course, but definitely not a patented Hibbert/West flatfooted set-shot either.
It was a treat getting to see PG at least moving around and active before the game, and George Hill as well. Don't be surprised if we see George on Tuesday, but it's not a certainty either. I heard it on pretty reliable authority that George will probably be looking to play 5-7 minutes a half once he returns. Of course, the medical staff could alter that plan at any time.
One other fun little anecdote from PG and GH shooting around pre-game was that since they were the only two players from either team on the court that early on, basically everyone that arrived at the arena early was watching just them. When they had put up enough shots and were going to head back into the locker room, they decided to have a little half-court shot contest before hitting the showers. They each missed about 4 apiece, and then sort of gave each other this "Ok, let's stop screwing around and finish this" look.
PG drills a half court 3.
A second later George nails another half courter.
The Target Center early arrivers Ooooohhhh'd and Ahhhhhh'd and cheered, and the G2 zone faded back into the locker room. It was a fun little moment, I was glad to see it live.
Now, we were sitting in section 113, directly opposite the Pacers bench. In the third row. So they were by far the best seats I had ever had at a Pacers game (Thanks, Mother-in-law!). So as opposed to every other game I've attended, I definitely had the sense that when I was cheering/chanting/yelling things in the direction of the court, the players heard me pretty darn clearly.
This was evidenced as early as the pre-game intros. As David West was announced I yelled Grady's good old "He's a baaaaaddddd man!" as loudly as I could. David, clearly taken a little bit by surprise, looked up in the crowd to see a tall white dude in a golden "Blue Collar, Gold Swagger" shirt giving him his usual Grady intro. My wife and I both looked at each other and laughed a bit because it was really obvious that he had smirked looking directly over at us. Same thing when I gave my loudest "Hib, Hib, HOOROY!" when they announced 55. A few glances and smiles from the Pacers bench area at seeing this random crazy person going insane during PREGAME on the road. Needless to say, the sea (or at least 1 of their alleged 10,000 lakes) of Timberwolves fans around me already sensed that they were not going to enjoy sitting in my section. More on that soon.
So the intros ended, and the poor girl singing the National Anthem had to restart after "Oh say can you..." because the guitar player accompanying her had apparently never heard the song before. I felt bad for her, she had a nice voice. But my goodness did he screw up the tempo and melody of the song.
The game started and we got off a decent start. Solo was frustrating me with his flurry of early turnovers, but we managed to get a rhythm and put some points up while the Wolves couldn't hit ANY of their alleged 10,000 lakes from an a boat. But slowly they crept back. While our defense was pretty solid tonight, Roy especially, we did surrender a couple (in the first half) mini runs that kept the game somewhat respectable. But CJ Miles really came through when we needed clutch buckets almost every single time. He was fantastic out there tonight. As was Roy in the first half (minus that lane bunny he should have dunked). But one of our best players out there early on was Luis Scola.
Now, everyone here knows that I have always liked Luis. Ever since his "Going Farder" quote when we traded for him, I've just flat out liked the guy. Always wanted to see him succeed here. So when he got hot in the second quarter, you had BETTER believe that I was yelling the Grady-esque "LUUUUIIISSSSSSSSCCCOOOLLLAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" at the top of my lungs. This, along with the constant clapping at positive Pacer plays and top of my lungs "Good D, Blue" "Good take, CJ!" etc, etc. was really starting to annoy a few of the folks around me. You could tell they had little interest in really going out of their way to cheer for the Wolves, they just wanted a nice, quiet Sunday evening... Sorry guys, not my style.
See I am not the type of fan to go to a game and try to heckle the opposition. I just want to cheer like hell for the Pacers. And a few of the Wolves fans around me didn't seem to enjoy that too much.
The guy sitting directly in front of me eventually had enough after the 2nd or 3rd "LUUUIIISSSSSSCCOOLLLAAAAAAAA!!!" and constant clapping that he had to turn to me and say in the most douchey way possible, half drunk: "HEY! I THINK THEY HEARD YOU MAN!" and then look around in all directions seeking the affirmations of all the other Wolves fans at having put the annoying "Pacers guy" in his place.
Instead, I simply replied to him in a loud, but not at all yelling voice "Hey man, you're free to cheer for YOUR team any time you want!"
He stopped talking after that.
Although he did make a habit of constantly raising his hands over his head (in an attempt to obstruct my view) and make overly exagerated claps every time the Wolves made a basket during their 2nd half comeback. Making sure to nudge his friend beside him and laugh every time, somehow thinking he was "besting me". All the while I was (While still seeing the game perfectly fine) cheering the exact same way I had been all night long. At a certain point I think they just gave up and accepted that I wasn't going to stop. Score one for the good guys! I like to think I earned my honorary Area 55 membership last night.
Oh by the way, he left the game without a word or a glance with over a minute left... Drive safe, drunk douche!
So the game went on, and the third quarter happened. It was not one of the more enjoyable parts of the evening, so let's just skip that.
Then the majority of the fourth quarter happened. It also was not one of the more enjoyable parts of the evening, so we can move on from that too.
All in all, I would surmise that the second half of this game took about a year off of my life expectancy.
But we gutted it out, and despite falling behind on a couple occasions, David West came up with a clutch bucket and CJ Miles hit another HUGE 3 as well as a few foul shots, and we were able to put them away. But not before my man Luis missed a PAIR in the final seconds, forcing another few months off my life expectancy. Fortunately we were able to get it in bounds and not give the Wolves a chance to tie or win.
After the buzzer sounded I quickly headed over to the Pacers tunnel to cheer them on one last time as they headed back to the locker room. Luis and Donald Sloan were among the last to leave the floor, and by that time most of the fans had cleared out, so I was standing there in my Pacers gear mostly by myself. Donald noticed the shirt and he gave me a smile and a nod as I congratulated him on a solid game. PG and GHill also hung around the tunnel for a few moments, enough for me to wish them both well with their respective injuries and let them know we're all pulling for them in Pacer Nation.
Once the players had all cleared out I thought I would see if I could go sneak over by the TV table and try to say hi to Chris, Quinn and Jeremiah. By the time I got there Chris and Quinn were finishing their final post-game remarks. Chris and I are friends on Facebook, and chat occasionally on Twitter and social media, but I wouldn't have by any stretch expected him to recognize or remember me. I thought surely he just accepts friend requests from big fans to be a classy guy. But when I got up there and called out "Chris!" he looked up to me and instantly says "Hey there! Tyler, you made it!"
See I had told him via Twitter last night that I would be at the game and was hoping to get a chance to say hello. He immediately walked up 5 or 6 rows into the stands and gives me a handshake and we proceed to chat about the Pacers and our families for about 15 minutes.
Turns out Chris remembered me quite well. Well enough, in fact, that he said to me "Now I am a little confused, because I though you lived in California... So I thought it was strange that you were saying you were going to be at the Minnesota game" -- I was a little stunned, honestly. Apparently he followed me much more closely than I realized. I explained that I had indeed lived in CA until recently, but had just moved to Northwestern Wisconsin and the Wolves were now my "Go to game" every year.
He even recognized my wife (From Facebook pictures and such, no doubt) and spoke with her like they were old friends as well. We talked about my youngest daughter, about how my eldest daughter had gotten a chance to come with us to a Lakers game a couple years ago (Link in Sig) and he was telling us about his sons and Christmas plans and all sorts of stuff. He treated us like we were well acquainted friends who were just catching up after losing contact for a few months. I've always been a huge fan of Chris and Quinn, but getting to meet and speak with him just cemented in my mind what a great asset he is to the Pacers. Not only is he great at his job, but he made me and my wife feel like a part of the official Pacers family last night, and for me that was truly special. I could tell it meant a lot to him knowing that I watched him each and every game night and was appreciative of his work and just wanted to meet him to say thanks. My only regret about this encounter was that Quinn had already left by this point, as well as Mark Boyle. It would have been lovely to have a moment to chat and shake their hands as well.
And that was that. Aside from getting lost in the parking structure for about 20 minutes and being unable to find our car, our awesome night had come to a close
I will end this post with the text of a message Chris posted on his Facebook account, re-sharing the set of Photos myself and my wife took with him after I posted them and tagged his account:
"Great to meet Tyler and his wife and daughter in person. Has only been to Indiana a few times and is a huge Pacers fan. Tyler, when you and the family make across trip to Indiana for a game sometime, tickets on me."
Great night, awesome memories, a really humbling encounter with a Pacers staffer I greatly admire and most importantly: A Pacers WIN!
Merry Christmas, indeed!
TL;DR - I went to the game, it was awesome, I pissed off Wolves fans because I cheered so loud, I met Chris Denari.