At the end of the first quarter, it appeared that some normalcy was ready to return to the Fieldhouse.
The Indiana Pacers jumped out to a strong start, leading the Utah Jazz by seven points twice in the first quarter. Yet, when the quarter ended the Jazz were up 29-28, simply brushing off the solid play the Pacers threw at them.
The Jazz continued to flex their Western Conference-elite muscles, pushing the lead to as much as 12 early in the third quarter.
Yep, this was familiar. After four straight wins, losing again to the Jazz should be a given. The Pacers were still playing well, but didn't appear to have enough to keep up with the Jazz, a team motivated to improve their playoff position in the West.
But then...the Pacers went off like they haven't all year. A 28-3 run initially sparked by Josh McRoberts and A.J. Price off the bench and then fueled by a career-night from Danny Granger, simply stunned the Jazz. The Pacers would end up out-scoring the Jazz 68-45 in the second half to secure the122-106 win.
This was impressive and I really can't explain it. I mean I can explain the win, but the details of the game are less interesting then trying to figure out how this Pacer team suddenly can't do anything wrong. They don't resemble anything close to the team that took the floor in January with little to no sense of purpose.
Yeah, they had injuries to deal withand new faces and blah, blah, blah. But these last seven games (6 wins with 3 over playoff teams and a 5-point loss to Cleveland) have seen this team play at a higher level than even any pre-season playoff predictors would have expected.
So if anyone can explain what's going on, I'd love to hear it.
Meanwhile, more thoughts and observations after the jump which include some career-high and franchise-high numbers.
- Let's start at the top of the food chain. Danny Granger took his hot play of late up to a level we've never seen before, finishing witha career-high 44 points along with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. Not bad. This was an extremely efficient 44, too which can't always be said about Granger's big scoring nights. He only needed 23 FGAs to score all of those points. His 25 second-half points never let the Jazz recovers once they fell behind.
- Granger also made 5 of 10 three-pointers, as the Pacers splashed a franchise-high 17 three-pointers as a team. Troy Murphy dropped four and Brandon Rush made three, including the 17th long one.
- A.J. Price and Josh McRobertsshook the vibe of the game in the third quarter. They didn't always make the best or smart play but they were intent on trying to make plays. Price had a couple of steals, drained a couple of threes and ended up with 12 points playing some extended third quarter minutes in relief of Earl Watson. McRobertshad 11 points and 6 rebounds, along with3 blocks to go along with his trademark energy which seems to perk up everyone in the Fieldhouse when he's on the floor.
- Price relieved Watson after the Pacers' point was clipped in the lip by a DeronWilliams elbow which left Watson bloodied and in the locker room to get stitched up. The initial play led to a great shot of Watson, with blood smeared around his face, incredulously asking the ref, "Foul's on me?" Yes, Watson was given a foul for having his lip attack D-Will's elbow.
- The Jazz struggled to defend the Pacers, but it's not like they had an off game from their key performers. DeronWilliams finished with 21 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds. Plus, Mehmet Okurand Carlos Boozer both and 20-point double-doubles.
- Okuralways seems to put up big numbers on the Pacers. His 16 first-half points helped put the Jazz out front early, but he cooled down a bit at winning time. Still, the big fella finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
- Roy Hibberthad a nice game, making a big impact around the rim at both ends. His 14 points and 6 assists helped compliment the big offensive effort and his 5 blocked shots make things tough at the hoop for the Jazz.