For a minute, I thought this was going to be the game. The Pacers squandered a strong 24-minute stretch spanning the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth quarter and with it a 13-point lead. So, the Pacers had the ball with the score tied and 30 seconds remaining.
Would this be the game when Jermaine O'Neal would carry the Pacers to a win? It really looked that way after J.O. hit a big 15-footer to put the Pacers up two with 22 seconds left. Huge shot down the stretch for a potential game-winner -- J.O.'s perfect ending to solid second half. Then reality stepped in and ruined all the fun.
Not only did that shot not hold up, but J.O. missed what would've been the game-winner with six seconds left, an open 17-footer right in his wheel-house. The game went into OT and slipped away for good. In OT, down three with 30 seconds to go, J.O. missed another perimeter jumper. When the Bobcats rebounded, the game was over. The Bobcats closed it out from there, grabbing the 107-103 win.
This was a painful loss the Pacers could not afford if they have any intentions of a special season. The Pacers were dhort-handed, going to battle without Jamaal Tinsley and Kareem Rush. But, that doesn't matter in the NBA. Charlotte hasn't been at full strength all year.
This game wasn't lost due to the players not in uniform. The fourth quarter collapse is all on those that were in blue and gold. After the Pacers built up a lead, they tried to cruise home with the W. But, Charlotte attacked at both ends while the Pacers went passive and just tried to hang on. The Pacers' tenatative play always breeds turnovers and shots out of rhythm, which was the case again this afternoon.
The turnovers alone could be singled out as the cause of the loss. Several critical possessions were just given away. At one point, Slick left a thought dangling in the air, "Where in the world..."
A few other thoughts from the picture painted by Slick and Boyle:
- Danny Granger was struggling early and was never able to catch up with Jason Richardson. But, O'B was forced to stick with Danny. Slick and Boyle were killing Granger for his lack of defense and a few killer turnovers.
- J.O. started slowly but came out strong in the third quarter and carried the effort through the end of the game. 20 and 13 is nothting to scoff at, but the huge plays were there to be made and they simply weren't.
- Andre Owens put a stranglehold on the opportunity presented him, playing 30 plus minutes, making his expected defensive presence felt, but also contributing offensively. His 4 first half 3-balls helped the Pacers escape the first half with a lead.
- Marquis Daniels added some key minutes, playing especially well at the end of the third/start of the fourth quarter.
- Mike Dunleavy kept the Pacers from getting buried early, as he hit nearly everything he tossed up in the first quarter and went to the half with 18 points. Unfortunatley, his second half was highlighted by fouls.
- The Pacers were shaky stretch run also included plenty of fouls. Dunleavy fouled out with about three minutes left. On the next play, Troy Murphy fouled out. Their absence on top of Tinsley and Rush being out, left the Pacers really thin for OT.
- So Dunleavy and Murph fouled out and suddenly the 13-point lead was down to three and Shawne Williams was in for his first critical playing time in a month or so. He had a nice assist to Marquis Daniels, but also let Matt Carroll get off a critical 3-ball that brought the Bobcats within two. Slick had just mentioned that the only thing Shawne needs to do is make sure Carroll doesn't get an open look at a three. Whoops.