Exhale, pack the W and race back to Conseco Fieldhouse without looking back.
Fortunately there's no beauty points awarded for wins in the NBA, because the Pacers weathered an ugly outing in New Jersey to hang on for a win over the depleted Nets, 91-83. But sneaking out of the swamp with a W after a subpar outing is the type of thing that's starting to make this season so attractive.
This game had the nightmare trap-game scenario written all over it. The Pacers were feeling good coming off a big win over Boston. The Nets were feeling lousy, having been nipped at the buzzer in their last outing to go to 0-10. There were simply too many favorables leaning toward the Pacers for the team to be amped up for this game.
But the Pacers won in the face of losing their offensive rhythm against a desperate team willing to play hard for 48 minutes. They found a way to get enough defensive stops in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, a method of closing out a game they couldn't rely on last year.
So, yes it was an ugly game with plenty of play to complain about. Just don't lose sight of the win, and the way the Pacers hung on to take it home. Not only did they not turn an easy win into a loss, but they never let the game get closer than two possessions thanks that newfound defensive efficiency.
More on the game after the jump.
After racing out to a near-perfect start, the Pacers would alternate waves of poor and good play before leaning on their defense late in the game to hang on for the win. That initial scoring burst at the start of the game ended up being the difference. After two minutes, Dahntay Jones and Danny Granger had the Pacers off and running with 9-0 lead. Seven minutes later the lead was up to 16 (28-12).
But the game turned into anything but a laugher, as the Pacers let their foot off the gas and then the second unit let the lead slip below double-digits before ending the first quarter up 10. There would be no early knockout and instead the two teams just traded blows the rest of the way.
The Nets made their way back into the game by burning the Pacers on the offensive glass in the first half. Brook Lopez was a monster all night and was able to lure Roy Hibbert and Solo Jones into foul trouble. Both bigs had three first half fouls. Lopez meanwhile, played 46 minutes and finished with 26 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks. Can't say enough about the effort Lopez showed.
But while Hibbert was on the court, he was able to match Lopez and the two young big guys put on an impressive duel in the second half. Hibbert wouldn't foul again in the second half and the Pacers leaned on his presence in the paint at both ends of the floor. He made shots, blocked shots, grabbed rebounds, threw down a follow dunk and even drew the defense before feeding Dahntay Jones for a shot-clock beating jumper on a critical late possession.
Jim O'Brien made the move of the night late in the fourth quarter when he inserted Earl Watson for Brandon Rush with the Pacers struggling to close the deal up nine. After the Nets quickly dropped the lead to six, Watson splashed a big corner three which halted the Nets' momentum in its tracks and put the Pacers up nine once again with two minutes to go.
The Pacers salvaged the win on a night when Danny Granger lost his touch early in the game and the Pacers lost their offensive way. The problems weren't unique. Too much dribbling, not enough ball movement. Dahntay Jones had another productive night, but he took a few too many shots outside the offensive flow.
So now the Pacers come off a relatively poor outing with a five-game winning streak to take on the New York Knicks at home. If the offense can re-ignite within the friendly confines of the Fieldhouse, then six in a row is there for the taking.
More thoughts and observations:
- Along with Brook Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts had a huge game for the Nets. It seemed like those two guys scored all of the Nets' points. Not quite, but CDR did finish with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
- Danny Granger just couldn't get his offensive game on track all night. He was able to get to the line and make all nine of his attempts to finish with 22 points. While he didn't have it dialed in from behind the arc, at least Granger limited his launches to four for the night. He also pitched in seven rebounds and a couple of big blocked shots.
- Solo Jones struggled with foul trouble again, collecting five fouls in 11 minutes on the floor.
- While Dahntay Jones didn't have his best offensive night, but he did find his way to the line and contributed 17 points to go along with 4 assists and 5 rebounds. Plus, the defense is always a factor and DJones collected three steals on the night.
- Tyler Hansbrough had a real tough night in his 16 minutes of allotted time. The rook didn't score, missing all five of his shot attempts and was unable to work his way to the line on a couple of interior plays that were simply cleared away. He really needs to keep the ball moving on offense and let the game come to him a bit instead of trying to force so much of the action.