Like Devin Harris and David West before him, Dirk Nowitzki sent the Fieldhouse faithful home shaking their heads as his tightly contested jumper splashed down with 1.1 seconds left in the game to push the Dallas Mavericks past the Indiana Pacers, 94-92.
To make matters as frustrating as possible, Nowitzki's dagger came after an improbable 3-ball from T.J. Ford found the bottom of the net with the shot clock buzzing to tie the game. The Mavs blanketed the Pacers three-point shooters which eventually left Ford with the desperation shot over and the outstretched arms 6'7" Mavs forward, Antoine Wright. I still have no idea how Ford was able to get his shot over Wright, let alone make the shot.
Ford's shot raised hope for the Pacers. Maybe it would be their night after making such a difficult, clutch shot. Unfortunately, Lucy was in the house with a blond mop top, German accent and frost-brewed blood flowing through "her" veins. Burnt at the buzzer once again.
While the Pacers couldn't end their losing streak (now five) they did put a halt to their gutless second half play of late. With five minutes left in the third quarter, the Pacers were down ten and appeared headed for another uninspired second half and double-digit loss.
Instead, the Pacers dug down and put up a fight, using a boost from the bench to get back into the game and then trading blows with the Mavs throughout the fourth quarter. Travis Diener, Stephen Graham and Brandon Rush all made significant contributions off the bench and were on the court when the Pacers were at their best.
So while losing always stinks, the effort level and solid play from unexpected sources offer a few positives for the Pacers to take with them to Charlotte for their game with the Bobcats tomorrow night.
A few other thoughts:
- Danny Granger had a brutal shooting night, scoring just 18 points on 26 field goal attempts. Granger did pull down 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double. Plus, his defensive effort was strong.
- Stephen Graham, Brandon Rush and Danny Granger played together quite a bit in the second half. I don't recall the trio on the court at the same time before. They were able to make plays at both ends of the floor.
- Rush played one of his best all-around games, playing most of the second half to finish with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. All of his three-pointers were key buckets to keep the Pacers in a tight game.
- Graham brought the energy we know and love but haven't seen much lately. His pesky defensive effort with Marquis Daniels out was huge.
- Jarrett Jack didn't play much in the second half. Not sure if he was dinged up or if JOB just wanted to stick with Rush and Graham because of the way they were playing.
- Roy Hibbert had a disappointing evening considering the Mavs were short in the front court so he had a big size advantage. The Mavs ended up playing small with Brandon Bass left on Hibbert. Bass was able to knock down some perimeter shots over Hibbert. Roy couldn't expose the matchup at the other end, so JOB eventually went small.
- Troy Murphy returned to the lineup and put up another double-double (14 and 11) and more importantly 38 minutes. Despite the game winner, Murph and Jeff Foster, along with some help from Granger, did a pretty good job defending Nowitzki. Dirk needed 26 shots to score his 23 points.