Indianapolis — Danny Granger couldn't shoot straight for most of the night, yet the smile across his face as he iced his knees in the locker room after the game spoke volumes.
In the past, as Granger's shot went, so went Indiana. He shot poorly on Monday night, but the Pacers still defeated the Detroit Pistons 91-79 in the season opener for both teams at the renamed Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Granger finished with 16 points on 6-for-18 shooting, but three Pacers had double-doubles, giving him a level of support that has been absent over the years. Roy Hibbert had 16 points and 14 rebounds, Tyler Hansbrough had 15 points and 13 rebounds and David West had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Add a defense that held Detroit to 36 percent shooting, and Granger could finally be at peace on an off night.
"We definitely could not have done that last year," he said. "We have the ability to crash the boards. I think our big guys did an excellent job of dominating the glass, on the offensive end also. We didn't give up too many offensive rebounds. When they can dominate the glass like that, it's going to be hard to beat us."
It was ironic that this season of high hopes started with a win against the Pistons. After all, it was an altercation with the Pistons and their fans in 2004 that ultimately forced the Pacers to rebuild.
Indiana's fans haven't forgotten. As players were introduced, Ben Wallace, a central figure in that brawl, was booed loudly. The fans who saw a championship-caliber team dismantled after a flurry of off-the-court problems finally have returned, and a packed house saw the fruits of team president Larry Bird's rebuilding effort on display.
West, the team's big-name free-agent pickup, was active and affected the game, even though he struggled to finish down low. Guard George Hill, the hometown hero acquired in a draft-night trade with San Antonio, provided a spark off the bench and created a buzz whenever his name was announced.