The Indiana Pacers had the Phoenix Suns on the ropes tonight but couldn't close the deal, losing 122-117. With 41 seconds left and the Suns down two, Steve Nash splashed a dagger 3-ball. After Nash made the net snap you could feel the W slip out of the Pacers' hands.
Painful, head-shaking loss, no doubt. But, can I admit something? That was fun.
These teams came into the game ranked 3rd and 4th in pace and lived up to their rankings. I'm quite proud of the way the Pacers played. They continued to battle and stick with their game plan, even though the Suns seemed to be a step ahead for the first three quarters.
This game required running to push the ball on offense, and sprinting back on defense. Try to catch your breath and you're giving away points.
The Suns are straight lethal on the move. They can put ten points up in a blink of an eye. The Pacers absorbed a few runs, but never let the game get out of hand. As their defense tightened up in the fourth quarter, the Pacers actually took control of the game. Misses by Tinsley, O'Neal, and Dunleavy down the stretch prevented the Pacers from putting the game away. With an opening, the Suns pulled out their trump card in MVP Steve Nash, and that proved to be the difference between these teams tonight. Tinsley's development as a go-to-guy couldn't match the proven money man running the show for the Suns.
Random thoughts from the game:
- This game was a LoNny love fest, with big numbers overflowing from the box score. Amare with 42 and 13, Nash with 18 and 17 assists, J.O. with 30 and 11, Tinsley with 19 and 12 assists, both teams combined for 11 players in double-figure scoring.
- Amazingly with all the points on the board, neither team shot the 3-ball well. Phoenix finished 3 for 16 and the Pacers were 5 for 20.
- Jermaine O'Neal was outstanding tonight, complete with the bounce that's been missing in his game. A good sign early were the dunks he was flushing around the basket, which have been a struggle. Also, the quick lift on his jumper made him a weapon with the ball in his hands. If he could've made that last jumper down the stretch...mmm.
- I had no idea that Amare Stoudemire doesn't miss shots from 15 to 20 feet out. I kept thinking the Pacers were defending well, leaving the Suns with Stoudemire shooting a long jumper, but he kept knocking them down. For as big and active as Amare is, he was pretty vulnerable on the defensive end for the Suns. I guess if he's pumping in 42 points you can live with it.
- Danny Granger had a tough night chasing and being chased around all night by Shawn Marion and friends. Granger seemed to perk up late, but 2-11 from the field and 0-5 from 3-land hurt the Pacers tonight.
- David Harrison had another solid game until he was hosed on a foul and quick technical.
- Marquis Daniels made a huge difference in the fourth quarter. He gave Nash fits for when he guarded him, and scored some key buckets as the Pacers claimed the lead. He even finished off the Pacers highlight of the game. Tinsley deflected a ball and dove to save it from going out of bounds. The ball went to Foster who threw it down court to a streaking Marquis. Quis went with the reverse dunk to give the Pacers the lead. The left knee looked pretty good on that dunk.
- Shawne Williams started the game instead of Jeff Foster. That was O'B saying, we're going to run with the Suns. No backing down. In the end Foster played plenty and was fabulous down the stretch with his usual defense and rebounding. He even snuck in for a couple of hoops.
- Real nice to see Grant Hill's fluid game back in action. Doesn't seem fair that he's with the Suns, but it's still nice to watch him play well again.
- Steve Nash dropped some beautiful dimes on his teammates. His passes weren't necessarily snappy, thread the needle types either. Several were just so well placed and easy to handle that the recipient could convert the pass to points with ease. Beautiful basketball.
- Okay, so the Pacers drop to 8-9 and have to go to Orlando on Friday. Certainly can't expect a win against the Magic. Just keep battling and sticking to the plan like tonight and the wins will take care of themselves in the long run.