The Indiana Pacers playmakers made plays late in the fourth quarter to quickly turn an apparent loss into a 107-105 win over the Chicago Bulls.
The Pacers spent much of the fourth quarter struggling to stop the Bulls long enough to catch up as Chicago's lead fluctuated between 8 and 5 points. But after the Bulls went up seven with 3:47 left in the game, the Pacers threw a 9-0 run at the Bulls culminating in a Danny Granger 3-ball with 42 seconds left which gave the Pacers a 105-103 lead, their first lead since midway through the third quarter.
After the Bulls quickly tied the game up, the Pacers tracked down a Troy Murphy miss which gave them a chance for some late-game heroics and more importantly the win.
With things broken down, T.J. Ford dipped into his bag of tricks for a patented fade-away, high arching shot which dropped cleanly through the net with 3.9 seconds left and proved to be the difference after Ben Gordon's shot attempt came up short.
While the Pacers defense was less than stellar most of the night, their ability to stop the Bulls in the final three minutes fueled the 9-0 run and eventually the win. In a stretch of five empty Bulls' possessions, the Pacers had a block, a steal and a shot clock violation. The defense allowed Granger and Ford to close out the win at the other end.
A few more thoughts:
- T.J. Ford had another huge game off the bench, entering the game early after Danny Granger collided with Kirk Hinrich forcing him to leave the court for a bit. Ford was able to get to the rim much of the night and the game-winner capped off an outstanding effort with 22 points, 9 assists and only one turnover. Looks like Ford actually IS handling his move to the bench far better than he did in Toronto.
- Danny Granger had his stroke flowing early and finished with another 31-point game on 11-19 shooting from the floor. His collision with Hinrich opened up a gash above his eye, but as he's done several times this year, Granger went to the locker room to get patched up and returned to the floor as if nothing happened. The 3-ball to give the Pacers a 2-point lead was simply cold-blooded.
- Troy Murphy returned to action after missing three games. Murph was a little rusty early but ended up with 15 points and 12 rebounds. While Murph returned, Jeff Foster was unable to play after tweaking his foot.
- With Foster out, Josh McRoberts played about 18 minutes in the middle and made things happen while he was on the court. Mac tied his career-high with 10 points. It was nice to see Josh play well after going so long without big minutes in a game. There's plenty of work to be done before Mac is a reliable rotation player, but he continues to show promise.
- Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose gave the Pacers fits much of the night. Rose had 24 points on 21 shots along with 6 assists and 11 rebounds. Hinrich was especially annoying with his ability to score in the second half. Hinrich finished with and efficient 20 points, 7 assist and 7 rebounds.
- Brandon Rush didn't have a third straight big scoring game but he was solid much of the night. With Murphy back and T.J. Ford pumping up more shots, Rush was only 5-8 from the field for 11 points. He also passed up a couple of shots in the second half which he'd been firing without hesitation lately. Seems like the more he shoots the more he lets loose with his game. Tonight there weren't enough shots to go around.
- Jarrett Jack was on the court for 44-plus minutes playing a lot of off guard as the Pacers went small with T.J. Ford at the point. Jack finished with 10 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds but he also had 5 of the Pacers 15 turnovers. Many of those 15 turnovers were from simply being careless with the ball on the dribble.