Ironically, on a day when the subject of Reggie Miller's possible return to the NBA arose, the cavernous hole #31 left on the Pacers after his retirement was visible to the naked eye in the Pacers 103-92 loss to the Phoenix Suns. The Pacers were up 18 with five minutes left in the third quarter. After Danny Granger missed a shot to go up 20, the Suns started chipping away at the lead. As the lead shrunk you could feel the collective sphincter of anyone associated with the Pacers tightening up.
Just under two minutes left in the third and the lead is down to 10. By the end of the third it's down to 6. OK, you blew a nice lead, so what? It's the fourth quarter. Game on. Money time. Whatcha' gonna do?
Well, the Pacers hung tough, holding off the Suns for the first six minutes of the fourth. But when Phoenix went up 90-88 with just under six minutes to go, the Pacers had no answer. And by no answer I mean no one to make a play to win a game.
Jermaine O'Neal played an incredible game but he is not a go to guy from the post because other teams send two or three guys at him and dare someone else to be a hero. Instead the Pacers could only come up with turnovers, bad shots, and even more damning, passed up shots.
At a time when Reggie Miller would be running through brick walls for a chance to shoot a momentum swinging shot, Dunleavy, Granger, and Murphy were pump faking and passing. Granger simply had no confidence in his shot. His play of late has revealed some disturbing streakiness. He has to find a way to get something out of his offense when the outside shot isn't falling.
From 90-88 Suns at 5:43, the score jumped to 100-90 Suns with 1:42 left. Here are the results of the Pacers' eight possession during that stretch.
- O'Neal Turnover:Traveling
- O'Neal Jump Shot: Missed, Granger Rebound, Granger Layup Shot: Missed
- Granger Layup Shot: Made
- Granger Turnover:Foul
- O'Neal Jump Shot: Missed Block: Marion
- Dunleavy Turnover:Bad Pass
- Dunleavy Jump Shot: Missed
- O'Neal Turnover:Bad Pass
It was like watching a high school 1500 meter race, when an unknown kid runs out in front of the pack and everyone thinks for a lap or two that he's about to upset the reigning district champion. But the champ keeps running his race and cruises by the staggering upstart to break the tape. The champ looks like he didn't raise his heart rate as he puts on his sweats and joins his girlfriend in the stands. Meanwhile, the not-ready-for-prime-time runner is laid-out on the track trying to catch his breath.