Game over, baby!
That was Mike Dunleavy's declaration after describing a replay of his inbounds pass to Danny Granger with 0.9 seconds left which Granger caught, turned and splashed from 3-land to break a tie and give the Pacers a hard-fought road win over the Phoenix Suns, 113-110.
The Pacers needed all 48 minutes on Wednesday night as they appeared headed for overtime and possibly blowing another game they had controlled through three quarters and led until Leandro Barbosa hit a 3-ball to put the Suns up 110-108 with 45 seconds left. Yep, the Pacers led the game, at one point by as much as 16 midway through the third quarter, for 47 minutes and 15 seconds and then let the Suns swoop in and take the lead.
The way the season has gone to this point, once the lead evaporated completely, there appeared no way the Pacers could win. They went ice cold in the fourth quarter, started taking too many jump shots and hitting the front rim way too often. At one point, they were 1 of 9 from 3-land. You could feel the tension all the way back in Indy. The Suns struggled to score themselves but eventually had enough opportunities to grab the lead. Losing this game began to feel like a force of nature no human in blue and gold could stop.
But in the final 45 seconds, Danny Granger stepped up and provided a superhuman effort to take back the lead for the Pacers and secure a W that was rightfully theirs. With 34 seconds left and the Pacers down two, Danny pulled up and knocked down an 18-foot jumper which was well defended. He had to hang and cock the shot a bit more than usual, but stroked it clean to tie up the game. Huge.
The Suns looked to take back the lead when Amare Stoudemire settled for a jumper with 11 seconds to go. Somehow, the Suns secured the miss. With Terry Porter and everyone else in the arena screaming for a timeout, Jason Richardson pulled up to shoot and miss a tough jumper with three seconds to go. When Jeff Foster secured the rebound, the Pacers had 0.9 seconds left for Granger's game winner.
In the comments, Peter from Sixty Feet, Six Inches mentioned that he might die of heart failure after a few more of these crazy finishes. He brings up a good point. If I ever have to visit a cardiologist in the future, I'm definitely going to have to list the 2008-09 Indiana Pacers season as a pre-existing condition. No doubt the doc will give me a knowing nod.
More notes on the W:
- Welcome back, Mike Dunleavy! As Bruno mentioned, it was nice to have the Pacers' two best players available to make the final play of the game. Dun played about five minutes in each quarter and played well. His jumpers were a tick short all night, but he came in and scored six quick points by cutting to the rim and getting to the line. Great start for Dun as he finished with 14 points and 4 assists. After the game he mentioned that he's on a "pitch count" with minutes but when he's playing he feels great.
- Danny Granger scored 37 points including the precious final five points of the game. His game continues to improve throughout the season. He found a way to get his shot going after it appeared to abandon him earlier in the fourth quarter. Also, his effort to begin the third quarter must be mentioned. The Suns scored the first two points to cut the Pacers' lead to two. From there, the Pacers went on a 20-6 burst fueled by threes from Troy Murphy and Danny, but also some ferocious defense by Granger. He had a couple of steals and really set the tone in that third quarter.
- The Pacers played a solid first half but only led by four at the break. Fouls and turnovers kept the Pacers from creating a bigger lead. Well, that and Louis Amundson for the Suns was a menace on the glass. Amundson finished the game with nine offensive rebounds, most in the first half as he put on a Foster-ian clinic in saving possessions for the Suns. With Shaq out nursing a sore back, the Suns were far less imposing inside but Amundson certainly did his part.
- Marquis Daniels and T.J. Ford were unavailable tonight, as well. Stephen Graham stepped in and started for Quisy and played quite well. He finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds and took part in one of the great third quarter plays which illustrated how well the Pacers were playing. After a Granger steal, Jarrett Jack ran the ball up in transition. Stevie sprinted up the right lane as the Suns defense ran with them. Jack passed to Stevie who was defended. Stevie stopped and reversed the ball back to Jack who then snapped it to Jeff Foster for a layup just ahead of two defenders. Jack-to-Graham-to-Jack-to-Foster for two. Easy.
- Granger also had a highlight move, illustrating the full array of his offensive development. Danny got a step on Amare with a cross-over drive. As he approached the rim, a pump fake sent a flock of arms and legs flying by as Amare and Matt Barnes bit on the fake. Danny, in full control, finished the layup. Absolute control on the drive the whole way. The days of hard and wild drives to the hoop, hoping to draw a foul appear to be past as the game continues to blossom.