The Indiana Pacers appeared to start their All-Star break one quarter earlier than expected.
After pumping in 86 points in the first three quarter, the Pacers not only reliquished the five-point lead they took into the final quarter, but were only able to muster up 15 points at winning time, allowing the visiting Chicago Bulls to scoop up the 109-101 win before leaving town.
While the game could be held up as a microcosm of the season thus far, I felt it really highlighted the difference in Danny Granger's game from this year to last.
Through two and a half quarters, Granger seemed intent on reminding everyone just why he was selected to play in the All-Star game last season. He had 22 points and his shooting stroke looked comfortable and easy. The points were coming efficiently instead of through a heavy volume of shots. He had made all of his three-point attempts, made it to the line and made all of his free throws at that point.
The game set up perfectly for Pacers' top player to carry his team to a victory before they went on a break.
But then the inconsistent, pressing, quick-firing 33 of '09-10 showed up with the game in the balance. Once he missed that first three-pointer, it seemed like Granger was doubling down on shot attempts to make up for the miss. Suddenly his shot attempts were in the 20's and he finished with only 27 points including two points in the waning seconds.
Winning time was over and instead of carrying the Pacers to a win, Granger led the lame fourth-quarter effort by the Pacers that let the game slip away. Actually, it started in the third quarter when the Pacers had an 11-point lead and the ball but missed on a couple of chances to extend the lead. The Bulls went on a 9-0 run to draw within two and tighten things up for the remainder of the game.
The Pacers did take a five-point lead into the fourth, though, but couldn't get anything going, scoring just four points in the first five minutes. It seemed to take awhile for the Bulls to realize the Pacers were willingly handing over the W, but eventually they got the hint and took control scoring the bulk of their 28 fourth-quarter points near the rim or from the free throw line.
This loss hardly lies in the lap of Granger alone, so please don't misunderstand. There was plenty of sloppy play to go around and really, anyone who stepped on the court for the Pacers in the fourth quarter shares in the blame for this defeat.
My frustration with Granger's game is borne out of the excitement I felt for the way he was playing in the first half. THIS was the Granger deserving the tag of All-Star. He has been through so many ups and downs this season with far more downs, seeing him put things together like he did was giving me hope of taking something positive into the All-Star break.
Instead I'll just go into the All-Star break...numb.
More thoughts after the jump.
- With three point guards suddenly playing well enough to deserve minutes available for only two, JOB decided to give the nod to his veterans, meaning rookie A.J. Price was left out of the rotation. JOB's explanation was that they wanted to give Price some consistent minute to see just what type of player they had and now that he's shown what he can do, the team knows what they have. But...what are we doing here? Price ends up not playing a minute tonight, which I assume is what we can expect if JOB sticks with this rotation. If Price has shown he's worthy of future point guard minutes, shouldn't the team keep developing him in that role NOW.
- For the Pacers to hold any intrigue through the remainder of the season, they have to play the young players. It's fun to watch for one thing. Plus, losses are a little more tolerable if you see Roy working his tail off to develop his post game or A.J. Price trying to expand his game and develop his defense. Maybe it's just me, but I'd give up a win or two (although, would I?) to see the young player on the court more.
- The Pacers struggled all night handling the Bulls' forwards. Luol Deng and John Salmons combined for 43 points while making life miserable on the Pacers. It was awfullyl nice of Vinny Del Negro to keep Salmons on the bench for much of the third quarter, although at 32 minute off the bench we saw plenty of Salmons.
- T.J. Ford had a nice little 7-0 personal run late in the third quarter complete with another three-pointer. After returning from his foray out of the rotation Ford is now 4-5 from behind the arc. May have to start calling him, Three. J.
- Derrick Rose had some outbursts of greatness tonight, mostly while flying through the air to finish takes in transition. Earl Watson did give Rose fits at times, but when the young point guard was able to shift gears in the open court no one could keep up with him.
- Roy Hibbert had a tough night offensively scoring 9 points on 4-13 shots with 8 rebounds, but just couldn't get his post game going. In the fourth quarter, JOB tried to get Hibbert going to stem the tide but the big fella rushed one post move and then simply missed a second opportunity. Not the answer tonight.
- The Pacers had a pair of double-doubles with Danny Granger's 27 points and 10 rebound effort along with Troy Murphy's 18 points and 16 rebounds. Nice nights indeed, just not enough of those numbers collected when it really counted in the fourth quarter.