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Pacers 87, Heat 85: Oh, What Fun!

This O'Neal pretzel nicely symbolizes the slugfest at the
Fieldhouse between the Heat and Pacer on Friday night.
(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Indiana Pacers were forced into a pace that favored the visiting Miami Heat, but finished with a flourish to beat the Heat at their own game, 87-85.

This game was an ugly grind throughout, just like Pat Riley likes it. The refs even seemed to revert back to mid-90s bruiser ball by letting tons of physical play go without a whistle. I figured a game in the 80s would go to the Heat, in the 100s to the Pacers, in the 90s a toss up. But, again, I underestimated this Pacer team.

No matter what the score or type of game, this Pacer team will grind, fight, and never give up until the final buzzer. This game appeared over with 3:45 left in the game. Mike Dunleavy had just coughed up a turnover giving the Heat the ball with an 82-75 advantage. The Pacers were having trouble scoring and making up that deficit seemed too daunting.

But O'B's Pacers never let defeat enter their thoughts. They reeled off seven straight defensive stops that fed the offense, making the improbable comeback look easy. Here's out it went down:
  • Stop 1 -- The first stop produced a Dunleavy steal that ended with a Foster follow up lay in. 82-77
  • Stop 2 -- Jason Williams missed a contested shot late in the clock. Granger rebounds but Pacers don't score.
  • Stop 3 -- More good team defense work through 20 seconds of the shot clock before Ricky Davis missed a contested jumper. J.O. grabbed the board (again, no second chances). Danny Granger converts this stop to points with a sweet baseline drive and little left-handed drop in the bucket. 82-79, 2:11 left, hope fills the building.
  • Stop 4 -- Half way through the shot clock, Pacers force a turnover when Daequan Cook travels. Now the fun begins. Kareem Rush, open in the corner...SPLASH!!! 82-82, cashed in another stop and the joint is jumpin'!
  • Stop 5 -- J.O. steps in to cut off a baseline drive and appears to take a charge. Everyone's going nuts, but the refs decide he had a foot inside the charge/block line. Buzz kill, since it fouls out J.O. and gives the Heat the ball. But, never fear, another great team defensive effort leads to Jason Williams chucking up an off-balanced three that doesn't touch the hoop. Dunleavy rebounds, and Kareem Rush cashes in the stop again, with a well-contested 3-ball in the corner. 85-82, this is really happening!
  • Stop 6 -- Jason Williams misses a contested shot, Udonis Haslem tries to climb someone's back for a tip in but missses. Dunleavy grabs the rebound and Danny Granger cashes in the stop with a jumper in the lane. 87-82 with 40 seconds left. W is firmly within the Pacers' grasp.
  • Stop 7 -- David Harrison blocks a shot near the free throw line, Mark Blount misses a shot and Dunleavy rebounds. Game over, baby! Pacers wind down the clock as far as they can, then Rush misses a three. Ricky Davis hits a half court shot at the buzzer, 87-85. Pacers win, everybody dance!
Quinn Buckner put it perfectly after the final buzzer when he exclaimed, "Oh, what fun!" Couldn't agree more, QB. Here are a few other thoughts from the W:
  • Jermaine O'Neal played 25 minutes, contributed in a bunch of ways, including head cheerleader after he fouled out. J.O. flirted with a triple-double finishing with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Point Power Forward? As reported in the game, J.O. still needs to get in what he called O'B shape to play. O'B shape is defined as top physical AND mental condition. Being able to stay mentally sharp even when completely tired.
  • Danny Granger was huge, again tonight. Seems like whenever the Pacers fell behind a little, Granger was hitting a 3 or doing something to help the P's climb back into it. Keep it up, Danny, and we'll start including 'breakout year' when describing your play.
  • Ike Diogu made 7 of 8 shots in the first half, playing a critical role in keeping the Pacers from falling behind too far. When Granger hit a 3 at the buzzer, the Pacers took a one point lead to the half. They probably should've been down 10.
  • Big ups to Dick Harter and his influence on the defense. As I detailed above, the team defense made this win possible.
  • Either Shaq is not fully healthy or his game is running on fumes. He just doesn't have the lift to make his trademark power moves around the bucket. He can't seem to finish with the gym rattling dunks we're used to.
  • Anyone who thought Daequan Cook left college prematurely can rest easy now. At one point, it look like Cook was going to shoot the Heat to the win. Cook played 29 minutes, scoring 17 points with 3 3-balls. He flashed plenty of NBA game tonight.
The Pacers have to get up for their first road game with a short trip to Memphis tomorrow night to take on the Grizzlies. The Pacers beat the Grizz twice in the preseason, so they should know what to expect.