INDIANAPOLIS (NBA.com exclusive) -- Tyler Hansbrough at last made his NBA debut Friday night.
Hansbrough, the Indiana Pacers' rookie forward and the No. 13 selection in the 2009 NBA Draft, scored 13 points in a 102-86 victory over the Washington Wizards in front of 14,556 at Conseco Fieldhouse, but something as important happed for Indiana.
Yes,the Pacers (2-3) won a second consecutive game. But they also did so in impressive fashion, not only pulling away from the injured Wizards (2-4), but doing so despite a sub-par shooting performance.
"It's good to know even though a bad shooting night is there we still got the win," said All-Star forward Danny Granger, who led the Pacers with 22 points on 7-of-21 shooting. "That's important," Granger added after Indiana shot 40 percent and 30.4 percent from 3-point range, "because our shooting is going to come. The last two years we've been a top 3-point shooting team. Our offense is going to get there. It's the defense we need to get going."
Hansbrough, who last season helped North Carolina to college basketball's national championship, missed preseason, training camp and the first four regular-season games with a shin injury that dates to his senior collegiate season. "I had a couple of jitters it being my first time on the NBA stage," Hansbrough said. "I just tried to get into the flow of the game."
The idea entering the game was for Hansbrough to play no more than 16 minutes. He played 13:49, and while Pacers coach Jim O'Brien had cautioned fans against high expectations -- he said he purposely had few of his own -- Hansbrough showed much of the same aggressive effectiveness near the basket he showed in college.
"Tyler was tough," O'Brien said. "It was about what I expected. He was a little rusty in some areas, but he'll attack offensively and defensively."
Hansbrough entered the game to an ovation from a crowd celebrating the 10th anniversary of Conseco Fieldhouse and left to a louder one. In between, he shot 3 of 7 from the floor and 7 of 10 from the free-throw line. He also had five rebounds and seemed more comfortable as the game progressed.
"I didn't know what to expect," Hansbrough said. "It was kind of a reality check -- you know, 'I'm out here, finally.' I just went out and played my game. I played well. I didn't do my best, but I sure tried."
The Pacers, after losses in their first three games, won their second in succession by pulling away early, taking a four-point lead after the first quarter and extending it to 14 late in the second quarter. Hansbrough, who said he wasn't sure when his minutes might increase, led the Pacers with seven third-quarter points as they pushed the lead to 82-65. He finished with nine second-half points before leaving early in the fourth quarter.
"I got in the flow of things a little better," he said. "I got over stepping on the floor for the first time." The Pacers, who held Washington to 39.3 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers, also continued to get a strong early season from forward Dahntay Jones. Previously known primarily as a defensive presence, he had his first career double-double Wednesday in a victory over the Knicks. He had 15 points Friday, with guard T.J. Ford adding 18.
The result was a locker room that was a sharp contrast to four days before, when Granger left the locker room without speaking after a loss to Denver dropped Indiana to 0-3. "Winning solves a lot of problems in this league," Ford said. Center Roy Hibbert, whose inside development is critical for the Pacers this season, started strong with 12 points and eight rebounds in the first half. He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds his third consecutive double-double. "As long as we play hard, we have a good time out there," Hibbert said. "It's taking some time for us to jell. We still have a lot to learn."
The Wizards, playing without not only forward Antawn Jamison but forward Mike Miller, lost a third consecutive game. Forward Caron Butler scored 24 points, and guard Gilbert Arenas had 13, but Ford controlled the game from the point for Indiana, not only scoring 18 points, but finishing with 10 rebounds and no turnovers.
"I'm very disappointed," Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. "Our effort was poor. We turned the ball over way too much. I told the guys I'm going to have to take responsibility. I was trying to get someone to play hard.
"We didn't play hard or with intelligence. Whenever we try to just play, we don't play very good."