Indiana Pacers fans watched as their team came within one game of making the NBA Finals last season, and many thought it would have happened if Danny Granger was playing. Granger was able to play in five games last season, between February and March, before being shut down for the rest of the year. Granger made his return to the hardwood on Saturday, but so did Derrick Rose.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse was filled heavily by Chicago Bulls fans who made the three hour drive to witness the return of their franchise player, Rose, after his 18-month layoff. Rose made sure to not disappoint them.
In 20 minutes, Rose scored 13 points, grabbed two rebounds, dished out three assists and pick-pocketed two steals. Add to that he led the Bulls in transitions, showed no fear when attacking the basket and appeared to be 100 percent, both physically and mentally.
Rose bested Granger in all aspects of the game on Saturday, but that isn’t to say Granger didn’t deliver in his return.
Going into the game everyone knew Granger was far from 100 percent, unlike Rose. Granger said so himself during the Pacers media day, and it showed during the game. In 29 minutes of play, Granger scored six points on 2-of-10 shooting, grabbed zero rebounds and had two assists.
One of the more telling signs was Granger not being included in the starting lineup that many, including myself, thought was a foregone conclusion. Instead, Lance Stephenson remained a starter and Granger strolled out near the end of the first quarter.
Granger’s return looked very reminiscent of the five games he played last season which was to be expected. It was nice to see him play close to 30 minutes with no limitations, and while Rose had the better return performance, Granger’s return was the next step in the Pacers’ run to a championship.