In a lot of ways, it's hard to do anything but shrug off this game and move on to the next one. The Pacers had to fight two double digit deficits to even earn an overtime trip and battled plays made by the 76ers once there. There were a lot of positives in the way the Pacers played, but simply had too much to overcome with a number of questionable calls, Danny Granger's ineffectiveness offensively, and struggles to play well on each possession as the game wound down.
Well, the Pacers lost anyway. Their seven game winning streak is over, but they're still in great shape for the third seed and nothing came to light tonight that should make any Pacers fans truly nervous, except maybe allowing 19 offensive rebounds to Philly, though it's not like that's anything new anyway. The Sixers came out hot, jumping out to double figures in the first quarter, closing on an 8-2 run, living at the free throw line and hitting every jumper they took.
Lou Williams took on the scoring load for Philadelphia in the second quarter, helping to push their lead to 13. David West played well early and often, and along with a huge half from Paul George, the Pacers ran off a dominating 16-2 run to close the half, capped with a superb George Hill buzzer beater to put Indiana up at the half. Elton Brand kept the jump shooting Sixers happy in the third quarter, turning the game back into Philly's favor on an 8-0 run to create another double digit deficit for the Pacers.
Tyler Hansbrough and Darren Collison helped close the gap for the Pacers bench as the lead trimmed to 4. The Pacers couldn't get over the hump for a good part of the fourth quarter. A lot had to do with the "are you kidding me?" jumpers Philadelphia was making, but also with extremely poor decision making and ball control by the Pacers to keep the game in the 76ers favor. West refused to let his team go quietly as he continued to score each trip down the floor, tying the game up with 26 seconds left. A huge defensive effort turned into a George miss and put the teams into an OT period.
Once there, Lou Williams led the way for Philly with a four point play that West eventually erased as the Pacers took the lead on a 6-0 run before Williams returned the favor with another three. On the ensuing possession, George Hill wildly pulled up a long three pointer that found front iron leading to a fast break dunk. Paul George was then called for five seconds, Indiana got a favor on a jump ball call (winning it) before Danny Granger's three missed; Pacers lose and Doug Collins starts yelling at someone. That's that.
As a whole, the Pacers fell short by three following a lot of big shots by Philly, bad individual shooting nights, and questionable critical and 50/50 calls. It's fortunate these aren't things that have been problems for Indiana lately and don't appear to be things that they can lean on for any real concern. Of course, as mentioned earlier, the offensive rebounding numbers are concerning, allowing 19 to one of the worse teams in the league at offensive boards. Philly also thrived in transition, and when you start looking forwards to the Miami Heat in the second round should the Pacers get past the first round, well, that could be a problem.
After the jump, good and bad in Indiana's second loss in April:
- It really is worth reiterating just how close Indiana came to winning this game and the things that stopped them from coming out with a W. Indiana had to really contend with terrible shooting nights from three starters. George Hill came on late with a couple of big buckets and Roy Hibbert did some damage at the line, but Danny Granger just didn't have anything. Before Hill's back-to-back FGs in the fourth, the three had combined for 6-26 shooting, and if you pitch in a (somewhat expected, no?) poor shooting night for Leandro Barbosa, the four guys combining for 8-42 on the night. Yikes.
- David West picked up the slack, going for a season high of 32 points, with another 12 boards to go with it. West, who's come on in a big way the last four games, averaging 22.0 and 9.8, could be a huge key for the Pacers success in the postseason if he can be rounding into his All-Star form from New Orleans. Oh, that would be nice, wouldn't it?
- Paul George had a huge first half, getting all 16 of hits points there while starting 6-7 from the floor. He added in 7 boards and a pair of steals to help the Pacers along. His shot went astray in the second half, but he still pieced together a solid game that is certainly encouraging for a second-year guy working out of a slump.
- Tyler Hansbrough helped the cause in the third quarter with his jumper being on point as the Pacers climbed back into the game. It's easy to look at Tyler's bad games and want him gone, but his play even makes his bad games somewhat tolerable. When he's hitting his jumper, however, it's tough to think about moving him. You'd have to get a 8-9 point guy who can do more than Tyler can do to even consider moving the pick. Anything later than a fringe lottery pick? Not even worth it. Keep Tyler, he may not always win you games, but he rarely kills you in games.
- Darren Collison returned to the lineup tonight after the announcement he'd be the full time backup behind Hill. He showed much more in his foul riddled first half than he did in the game against Minnesota. DC's first half was cut short with the three quick fouls (mostly on stopping transition), but returned in the second half, played very well, getting a smooth 8 on 3-3 shooting and running the offensive well, despite some struggles in the fourth quarter moving the ball. There certainly didn't appear to be any "hurt feelings" at play.
The aforementioned transition happy Miami Heat were short their big three (resting Chris Bosh and LeBron James) after Dwyane Wade went out, leading to a loss to the Wizards at home. With Chicago pulling out a W themselves against Dallas, that will more or less put to rest any possible switches at the top of the East as the Heat will almost certainly stay locked in at the #2 seed.
Indiana has done so well this month there aren't any immediate effects to not clinching the third seed tonight. The magic number remains at 1. With the New York Knicks falling to Cleveland last night, Orlando has their magic number sitting at 1 to avoid falling below 6th. Orlando is up a few points early in a late game at Utah (as of this writing), so they could finish off that magic number tonight.
Orlando plays again tomorrow night against Denver, but the only other matchup of note involves Atlanta and New York tomorrow afternoon at Madison Square Garden, guaranteeing that one of, if not both of those magic numbers will be erased. Indiana has two games remaining in the regular season, and will take the floor Monday against the Detroit Pistons who crushed the Cavs just to be crushed by Atlanta the next night before ending Minnesota's three year losing streak in April.