Tyrus Thomas swatted away Danny Granger's layup attempt with 27 seconds to go and with it the Indiana Pacers last gasp effort to both win the game and remain in the playoff discussion, as the Chicago Bulls closed out the Pacers to earn a 112-106 win.
It was a fitting end to the game and, for all intents and purposes, the end of the regular season "playoff" games for the Pacers. Even if Granger had scored the layup, the Pacers would've still been down three, in need of some help from the Bulls in the form of missed free throws. Assuming the host were missing those free throws, the Pacers still would've had to convert buckets at the offensive end. With the way this season has gone, those are some bold assumptions few would expect to happen. But instead of finding out, Thomas swatted the Pacers out of their misery when his block sealed the game.
Just as the game was a long shot to win late, so were the Pacers' hopes of making the playoffs heading into Chicago. They were 4.5 games behind Detroit and Chicago with two games against the Bulls and a game against Detroit remaining. Assuming they could beat the Bulls twice (like Granger's layup), thew would still need some help from a few teams in the form of losses. Assuming those teams coughed up the necessary losses, the Pacers still would have to win seven of their final nine games. With the way this season has gone, those are some bold assumptions few would expect to happen. Again, instead of finding out, Thomas swatted the Pacers out of their misery when his block sealed the win for the Bulls and pushed them 5.5 games ahead of the Pacers.
Despite the painful loss, the was plenty of good play from the Pacers against a Bulls team that has found their stride of late, reaping the benefits of adding John Salmons and Brad Miller into the mix. At this point, good play and great effort by the Pacers in a tough loss is fine by me since there's no way to avoid looking ahead to the draft.
More thoughts on the game:
- Brandon Rush absolutely went off in the first quarter, pumping in 18 points to help push the Pacers to a 35-21 lead heading into the second quarter. Rush finished with a career-high 29 points including a couple of big buckets late in the game, including a layup to give the Pacers their last lead (101-100) with 3:21 left in the game. Yeah, I said layup. In fact, forget the point total, it was just great to see Rush finish plays at the hoop where he was 4-4 on his layup attempts, even through contact.
- The Pacers first quarter lead evaporated in the second when Ben Gordon and Brad Miller combined for 21 of the Bulls' 23 points in the first seven minutes of the second quarter to erase the 14-point lead the Pacers enjoyed. Gordon finished with 25 points while Miller added 17 off the bench.
- Danny Granger added another 30-point game to his breakthrough season, although his 32 points on 24 shots won't mean a thing to the All-Star since the team lost another tough one late.
- John Salmons was huge again for the Bulls, finishing with 22 points including two daggers from 3-land which turned a Pacers one point lead into a Bulls 5-point lead with less than two minutes to play. From there the Bulls closed out their fourth straight W.
- Troy Murphy put in a little work prior to the game but was unable to play. Once again, Jeff Foster picked the slack on the glass by snaring a career-high tying 18 rebounds.