The trauma of another losing Indiana Pacers season is over. And the final script wrote itself.
Led by a sporadic offensive shooting performance, the Pacers built a 14-point lead (75-61 with 2:54 left in the third quarter) to casually blow it in the fourth stanza, allowing the Wizards back into a game that should have been over with eight minutes to go. Instead, we had a game on our hands, and it was up to the Pacers whether it was going to end the season with a series-sweep against the Wiz or a season-finale loss.
After scoring a career-high 29 points in his hometown, Roy Hibbert looked poised to be the Pacers' hero. Instead coach Jim O'Brien shelved him, opting for perimeter shooting to help the team hold onto its lead. Curiously, the perimeter shooting Pacers were an unhealthy 3-of-22 (13.6%) from 3-point land this evening, yet it seemed logical to rely on those shots with the game on the line. Well, logical may be the wrong word.
Obviously, it didn't stop the Wiz from taking a one-point lead 1:47 left and after the Pacers scored only six points in seven minutes as shots never connected in the net (including a Gordon Hayward-esque Mike Dunleavy 3-pointer with 28.9 seconds to go), the blue and gold had one final chance. So with 3.1 seconds remaining, the ball went to Danny Granger and his wide open 15-footer on the right wing rattled in-and-out of the basket.
The Pacers lose 98-97. End of game. End of season. More after the jump.
Just as the season had shone us, the final half of the final game reiterated some important points. Hibbert looks better and better in the post everyday, yet O'Brien doesn't "Feed Roy!" enough. Granger, who had 17 points on 4-of-16 shooting, is still not that killer superstar we need him to be on a nightly basis. Our post defense is atrocious as pointed out by Andray Blatche's 26 points tonight. The 3-point shooting (that's our strength right?) was miss more than hit. The coaching staff is, well, still the same coaching staff.
It would have been great to end the season on a Granger walk-off jumper, but it just wouldn't have been right. Things never came together for this team, and it showed again tonight. There are some things to like and it's certainly going to be an interesting offseason as we prepare again to shave off money for that 2011 summer, while still trying to win some games. Hell, let's get on to next season. It's time to start from zero again.
- Jim O'Brien's press conferences after games are painful to watch. Maximum security prisons should be ordering copies of these tapes for inmates. Tonight's was no exception. O'Brien put the blame of the loss on Granger and Troy Murphy's shooting, gave some credit to Hibbert (while also adding that it was surprising since Hibbert's never played well in D.C. before), and then gave his usual short answers with that patented, insulted "how dare you ask me that?" look on his face. Always good stuff from our coach.
- As O'Brien said after the game, this one came down to Danny and Troy Murphy not shooting well, and saying that about Troy may have been an understatement. In what could have been his final game as a Pacer (which I could say about nearly every player on the team, so I'll refrain from writing it again), Murph dropped an ugly 1-of-10 from the field as his bullets to the basket looked like blindly shot missiles, clanking off the rim, backboard and any other construction surrounding that net which gives your points. As usual in O'Brien's system, Murphy didn't shy away from the 3-point shot on a bad night as he launched six of them and missed six of them. He still pulled in his patented nine rebounds and nabbed four steals, but don't let that confuse you for defense. I'm glad I'll have at least five months before I have see him slide out of the way of driving players and fail to be the "help" defender any longer. Let's hope we never have to even watch that again for sure after the trade deadline next year.
- Dahntay Jones had a productive 17 minutes off the bench where he scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Honestly, I didn't notice it. Here's hoping Jones is more prevalent in the lineup next season. That 17 minutes doesn't seem like enough for Jones on this team.
- Earl Watson made his case for any suitors this offseason with another hard-working performance tonight. He earned 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, shots that were made near the basket as Watson didn't fall into his teammate's traps of outside shooting. He did throw away the ball four times tonight (Granger led the team with five turnovers), but it was another good night for Watson. A.J. Price, however, saw only 11 minutes of action.
- Al Thornton left the game early in the fourth quarter with a mild concussion after getting hit in the face by Brandon Rush while driving to the basket. That was the highlight for Rush.