The Indiana Pacers dropped another heart-breaker on Tuesday night, this time compliments of Devin Harris from the top of the key at the buzzer. The shot from Harris with Jarrett Jack's hand in his face let his New Jersey Nets run out of town with a 108-107 win.
How many games like this must we endure? The Pacers began the night with the deck stacked against them, yet gave a great effort, and played pretty well by swapping runs with the Nets all night. With the game appearing to slip away late in the fourth, the Pacers scrapped back and actually took a one-point lead after Danny Granger knocked down a jumper with ten seconds left.
That ten seconds proved to be .5 seconds too long because the Nets scrambled through a tough defensive possession by the Pacers to finally find Harris with just enough time to clear some space to get the game-winner off clean. AAUGH! I feel ya, Chuck.
The game may not have made it into Harris's hands had the Pacers not come up short on any one of three plays down the stretch that proved fatal. First, with 1:20 left and a one-point lead, Brandon Rush ended up with the ball after a Diener miss for what appeared like an easy bucket, but Rush botched the dunk.
After the Nets turned the ball over, Diener returned the turnover with 55 seconds left and the Pacers still up one. For some reason, Jarrett Jack fouled Keyon Dooling. Dooling cashed in the freebies to put the Nets up one.
On the next possession, Danny Granger drew a foul and took his 45 straight makes to the free throw line. The flu legs probably got him, but whatever the reason he missed both free throws.
Three possessions in a row in the final 1:20 that could've easily provided a four-point swing in the Pacers favor but instead led to a two-point advantage and a one-point lead for the Nets. That's all the Nets needed.
A few other observations for consideration:
- Yes, Danny Granger returned and play 32-plus minutes, despite appearing less than 100 percent healthy, Granger at least had his shot flowing and ended the game with 26. Troy Murphy was still not at the Fieldhouse and reportedly has lost 20 pounds during his bout with the viral infection. Marquis Daniels has lost 12 pounds and while he suited up for the game, Quisy did not play. T.J. Ford joined Quisy on the bench at halftime with back spasms and he was unable to return. So that's how the deck was stacked against the Pacers.
- Plus, the Nets were embarrassed at home by the Rockets last night. Vince Carter and Harris only combined for 20 points against Houston, far short of the combined 45 ppg average. Well, they made up for lost time against the Pacers. Carter came out smoking and Harris sealed the deal as the duo disrupted the Pacers dreams of a W by pouring in 67 of the Nets' 108 points. Harris appeared to sprain his ankle late in the fourth, only to hobble back on the court to drain the game-winner. Ruthless.
- So with the missing firepower for the Pacers going against the fully-loaded arsenal of the Nets, how in the world did the Pacers take this game to the buzzer? Easy. They took care of the ball (only 10 turnovers), moved the ball (31 assists), held their own on the glass and shot the ball well (FG: 49%, 3PT: 61%). They also had a few players step up to produce in their increased role.
- Brandon Rush had his shot flowing tonight and ended with a career-high 22 points and 8 rebounds. Rush hit 4 of 5 3-balls and snared 3 steals while again, playing big minutes (42-plus). Despite the killer losses, this recent stretch of heavy playing time through crunch time in the fourth quarter can only help Rush's development in the long run.
- Travis Diener also played well off the bench in place of T.J. Ford in the second half. Travis played down the stretch and finished with 11 points and 4 assists. Travis does a great job of keeping the offense flowing while he's out there.
- Twice in the second quarter, Rasho made beautiful moves around the bucket, by employing a one-arm pump fake one way to lure a defender to the bait and then spinning the other way for an open bucket. Savvy. Speaking of savvy, Rasho also finished a gorgeous feed from Josh McRoberts after a back cut in the second quarter. What? You didn't think McRoberts-to-Rasho would be a recipe for good offense this year?
- Finally, for a little levity, Mike Dunleavy made his presence known on the bench tonight. Not sure if he forgot the NBA required jacket and had to borrow a blazer or if he was attempting to launch a style trend, but the sour, mustardy yellow jacket certainly drew attention. I figure he wore it in case one of his ill teammates hurled on him. Not sure anyone would've noticed if they had.