As the Philadelphia 76ers closed the third quarter on a mini run to cut the Pacers once 16-point lead to just three, it was anybody’s guess how the next twelve minutes would go. The Pacers led the entire way, managing to go run for run with Philadelphia, so when the first three and a half minutes saw Indiana go scoreless and allow the Sixers to extend a five-point lead, it seemed like the team’s recent struggles were about to go into another fourth quarter collapse. As Chris Denari put it, "There’s something about when the scoreboard switches to four."
It was then that Danny Granger drove the lane for a Pacers team that had one technical free throw to their name through 36 minutes, managed to get the team to the line for their first points of the quarter, ensuing a back and forth slugfest. The Pacers held a small lead with two minutes left. The Sixers with the ball, deferred to Louis Williams who popped up a three pointer that rolled in and out. On the other end, with the shot clock winding down, Roy Hibbert calmly and coolly backed down and with time expiring, flipped up a smooth hook shot that went in.
From there, the Pacers ironically iced the game on eight free throws, closing out the 76ers for the team’s first win on the road since November 30, when times were definitely better. Perhaps the Pacers can use this win to get them back on track, even if that is wishful thinking. Regardless, the Pacers broke 100 points for the first time in three weeks, winning their fifth straight game when breaking the century mark.
The team’s effort was certainly there and many players played hero tonight. The game was coached and played like a game the Pacers had to escape with and they did just that. Mike Dunleavy scored 15 of his 20 points in the first quarter, Jeff Foster recorded a season high 10 points, Tyler Hansbrough nearly pulled a double double with 12 and 9, Danny Granger led the way with 27 points on an efficient 17 shots, and Darren Collison recorded his first double double as a Pacer seconds into the third quarter, finishing the night with 21 points and 13 assists.
After the jump, more on a much needed win:
- Darren Collison as mentioned finished the night with a big 21 points and 13 assists; piling up his contributions in bunches. He did so playing his game, with isolations and screens that helped his control the game, and more importantly, the anemic offense to a win worthy night. T.J. Ford’s night was much quieter in shortened minutes, but added 2 points and 3 assists to the PG cause, where the two combined for just one Collison turnover in all 48 minutes.
- Danny Granger came out of his free throw slump with four clear headed and important foul shots. In addition to his 27 points, Granger found time for 7 assists and 5 boards. Whether motivated by the return of Andre Iguodala or simply coming out of his slump, Granger put an offensive and defensive beatdown on Iguodala, who finished 0-7 from the field with 1 point.
- Roy Hibbert’s final shot was by far his biggest. It was calm and collected, perfectly executed. With time running down on the shot clock, Hibbert simply played his game, and it paid off, with a key hook shot that helped sink the dagger into Philadelphia. The rest of the night didn’t reap the rewards, as he finished just 4-12, but he played a better, more collected game. The shots just weren’t falling at a good rate.
- Jeff Foster had a season high ten points to go alongside his 8 rebounds. The most exciting play of the night were pick and rolls involving a running Jeff Foster for an easy bucket. Foster’s night was tremendous all night. Tyler Hansbrough had himself another near double double, giving Indiana twelve much points of offense that may or may not have gotten from Josh McRoberts, who racked up another DNP-CD. Hansbrough did however finish with a team low -14 in the +/- scale, which may be a bit of a concerning statistic should you put enough stock in it.
Jim O’Brien ran a short and tight rotation that resulted in heavy minutes for Granger, Collison, and Dunleavy on the first night of the team’s back-to-back. They’ll be back in Indianapolis tomorrow to take on the Dallas Mavericks, who may or may not be without Dirk Nowitzki as he nears closer to his return from injury. As a concerned fan for Dirk’s wellbeing, there’s no need to be too quick in his rehabilitation. From a personal standpoint, I would think it in Dirk’s best interest to sit out one more game, hopefully the Mavericks agree.