March 23, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard Paul George (24) drives the ball around Phoenix Suns shooting guard Michael Redd (22) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE
Frustrations were overflowing when Frank Vogel, fed up with the calls he felt the Indiana Pacers weren't getting a fair shake on, ran onto the floor to argue one of many questionable whistles and found himself ejected on his second technical foul. Steve Nash would hit the technical free throw to put the Suns up 104-99 with under two minutes to go, to go a long way in sealing a Pacers loss that was every bit as frustrating as Vogel himself expressed when he was ejected.
While the Pacers came up on the short end of whistles all night, spending a majority of the game nearly doubling up the Suns in foul calls, finishing up with them ending the game -10 in calls and every player with at least two, the calls were just one part of the struggles the Pacers had in a game they needed everything offensively to keep pace with the scorching Suns. In fact, the Pacers had a lot of offense going themselves, shooting upwards of 60% from the floor for a large portion of the game.
Roy Hibbert was particularly unstoppable in the early portions of the game as he and Danny Granger led the way for the high flying Pacers offense to lead after one, but Steve Nash was vintage in his ball movement, racking up assist after assist, involving Marcin Gortat early and often. The Pacers bench did a much better job tonight with Tyler Hansbrough leading the charge as Indiana suddenly had to deal with Michael Redd, who led an 8-0 run to put Phoenix into the lead.
From there, Indiana closed the half strong with Paul George erasing the immediate run as Granger and Hibbert continued to play big basketball, as the game of runs smiled upon Indiana in an 11-2 fashion to give the Pacers a 7 point half time lead. The Pacers built their lead despite their struggles holding onto the ball, giving Phoenix a big advantage in points off turnovers, as well as the Suns ability to crash the offensive glass.
The turnovers and offensive rebounds came back on the Pacers in the third quarter as the Suns rode Gortat and Grant Hill as Nash continued to pile up his assist numbers, Phoenix closing the quarter on an 8-2 run to put them up 7. The fourth began to pile up Indiana's frustrations as they continued to cut the game to one possession, but were unable to get the stop they needed to get Indiana up, clawing back twice in the fourth before the ejection of Vogel.
When Coach Vogel was ejected, the Pacers were able to respond in a positive manner, cutting the 5-point game to one, but as has been the case at times before this season, Phoenix would find a way to hit a shot, turning a one possession game into an almost insurmountable two possession one. Channing Frye would once again do his dirity work with a dagger three, but Granger was able to keep hope alive, hitting some buckets to make it a three point game.
The Pacers caught a huge break when Frye missed both free throws, giving Indiana enough life, eventually coming down to Paul George heading to the line, needing to hit his first, and miss his second to give Indiana a shot at OT, but after hitting his first, his attempt to rebound his miss came up short, a miracle tip coming just short, a miracle tip that may have been a foul, but it was one of those nights for the Pacers, who are that much more fortunate to have won last night.
After the jump, more on the tough loss:
While the Pacers came up short on the foul side of things, they didn't help their cause by committing a number of turnovers, some of those coming as offensive fouls, but also getting caught with bad passes when they were trying to showcase more ball movement. Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert really had tremendous games. Danny finished with a game high 28 points, hitting all four his three pointers, but also stepping up at times defensively at stretches to help the cause.
Hibbert on the other hand simply had his shot going, finishing up with 19 & 7 with some really solid stretches throughout the game. In fact, despite Indiana's ability to get the necessary stops in the second half, it was a well rounded effort from the entire team. It's ultimately disappointing the Pacers had to come out on the short end of this game, but will have another chance when they close out their back-to-back-to-back against the improved Milwaukee Bucks. Tonight's game was a far better effort than the one they showed against Washington, and will need to make sure they don't let the third night be a mental hurdle.