Fans Deliver Mustard for Pacers

May 18, 2012

Heading into Game 3, George Hill said he hoped to see more mustard (Pacers gold) than ketchup (Heat red) in the stands at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Turns out, the fans—and the team—enjoyed a saucy night, turning the home court into a powerful advantage that helped fuel the 94-75 blowout of Miami Tuesday. Of the 18,165 bright gold t-shirts bearing the "Gold Swagger" motto, almost all were donned, bringing more than just color to the arena.

"All the gold, I was almost blind," Danny Granger said. "I hadn't seen it like this since I've been here, fans going crazy. Just thankful so many fans came out to support us. The energy early was so off the charts I lost my breath at about 2 minutes. I don't think I've ever been that tired, so much adrenaline was running through us. But the energy was amazing."

The regular-season routine when a team like the Heat comes to town is for a significant portion of the crowd to be wearing the jerseys of LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, and there usually is a substantial cheering section for the visiting team. Not so Thursday.

Not since the days of Market Square Arena has the environment been so forceful, so positive, so influential on the outcome.

"They (fans) were a big factor," Hill said. "Without them this building wouldn't have been electrified, we wouldn't have had all that juice we had so we rallied behind them."

"We felt it," Paul George said. "We know they felt it."

"It was crazy," Roy Hibbert said. "It was the best I've seen in my four years here. I hope every night can be like that from now on."

This did not look, sound or feel like the arena of a team that finished 29th in the league in attendance with just six sellouts. Those statistics can be shelved, once and for all. If it took awhile for the city to warm to this team, Indianapolis now believes.

Whether the rest of the country is ready to hop on board the bandwagon remains to be seen but with a 2-1 lead in the series and a chance to gain a stranglehold in Game 4 Sunday, the Pacers are starting to move the national needle, if only a bit.

"Who knows? There's always doubters," Hill said. "We don't focus on that. Even with the win in Game 2 it was because of this or because of that, no credit. But we don't need the media's credit to know what we can do. As long as everybody in this locker room believes one thing -- that we can win -- and as long as we stay on the same page, that's all that matters."/p>

"I think we're making a few believers," Granger said. "People probably still don't believe a lot but with the way we're playing, how hard we're playing, the intensity we're playing with, they're going to have to believe at some point."

Ultimately, the only belief that truly matters is the Pacers' in themselves. They had it entering the series, refusing to accept the underdog role. The last two victories only have reinforced that inner strength.

"We weren't looking at this thing like we were just coming in to put up a good fight and make it look good," David West said. "Our intent was to come in, compete, play our game and try to win the series. That's been our mindset from the jump."

It isn't over by any means. If Miami wins Game 4, the Heat will not just tie the series but regain homecourt advantage. Now that the Pacers know just how much of an advantage that can be, they will be even more motivated to keep that from happening.

Though a young coach, relatively speaking, Frank Vogel has been in some of the most frenzied environments in the game -- Kentucky at the college level, Boston and Philadelphia in the NBA.

So how did this compare?

"Best building I've ever been in in basketball," he said. "Best crowd I've ever witnessed. Glad to see all that mustard."

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