CLIFF BRUNT,AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — 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.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel won his first game without an interim tag, and the team did it his way — with smashmouth basketball. Indiana outrebounded the Pistons 53-40.
“We still took a few too many bad shots, which I’m not too happy with,” he said. “But we were attacking the basket, we were getting to the free throw line and we’re making the extra pass, and that’s the style of play that we’re going to have. and it’s going to win for us.”
The Pacers shot just 37 percent from the field, but got away with it in part because they had 18 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points.
Detroit couldn’t get its offense going to take advantage of Indiana’s poor shooting.
“We just have to play a whole lot more together game,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said after his debut as Pistons coach. “More ball movement, more working to get rhythm shots. It just shows you where we’re at right now. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey each scored 17 points for the Pistons, who never led.
“Now we know what we’ve got to do,” Stuckey said. “We’ve got to stop complaining, we’ve got to rebound the basketball, we’ve got to play harder. That’s it.”
Indiana led big early, but Detroit made a push in the second quarter before back-to-back 3s by George and Darren Collison increased Indiana’s lead to 47-34.
The Pacers led 52-38 at halftime and kept rolling at the start of the second half. Collison hit a baseline jumper off an offensive board by West, then followed it with a 3-pointer to push Indiana’s lead to 59-42. Hibbert dunked and was fouled after a nifty inside feed from Granger. His free throw pushed Indiana’s lead to 62-42 four minutes into the second half and forced a timeout by the Pistons.
Detroit played a bit better right out of the timeout, but a bucket by Hansbrough and a fast break layup by Dahntay Jones pushed the lead back to 20 and forced another Detroit timeout with 4:42 left in the third.
This timeout didn’t work so well for the Pistons. Jones hit a long baseline jumper, then George Hill’s steal and dunk pushed Indiana’s lead to 74-50. The Pacers led 76-58 at the end of the third quarter.
A 3-pointer by Granger pushed the lead to 85-61 with 7 minutes left in the game. Pacers fans gave the team a standing ovation in the final minute.
Frank was impressed with the Pacers, but he didn’t get carried away.
“It’s one game,” he said. “What’s the big boulevard down here? I don’t know if there’s going to be a parade this year. They’re a good team, it’s one game, they outplayed us tonight.”
Notes: Pacers C Jeff Foster sat out with a back injury he tweaked during the preseason. … Pistons C Ben Wallace was loudly booed during pregame introductions. Wallace played a key role in the brawl in 2004 that eventually forced the Pacers to rebuild. … Indiana F Jeff Pendergraph missed the game with a sprained right knee. … Indiana outscored Detroit 16-4 from the free-throw line in the first half. … Hill had four points and four assists in his regular-season debut for Indiana.
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