The Pacers moved within one game of the Orlando Magic and the 8th seed in the playoffs with an inspired second half effort that lead to a 112-102 win over Charlotte. Had to "watch" this game through highlights and Internet updates, but with play-by-play updates I couldn't help getting excited by the second half turn around and the players making big contributions. First, among those who didn't contribute were Jamaal Tinsley (elbow) and Jeff Foster (back) who both sat out the game to rest injuries. Now here's some thoughts on who did play:
- Danny Granger said the hell with his shooting woes and just decided to carry the offensive load for the Pacers. DG was 3 for 3 from 3-land but also had plenty of drives to the hoop while compiling 32 points.
- Granger also hit all 7 of his free throw attempts including a few critical fourth quarter freebies. As a team, the Pacers made 25 of 27 FTAs to end up outscoring the Bobcats from the line by 10. What was that score again?
- To keep Darrell Armstrong coming off the bench, Keith McCleod stepped into the starting spot for Tins and gave 26 solid minutes. He made three 3-balls to finish with 11 points and 5 assists.
- Mike Dunleavy deserves special mention for his impact on the game tonight. Normally, 20 plus points is required to even notice Dun on the court. But with Granger bringing the offense, Dunleavy focused his efforts elsewhere. He played 40 minutes but only took 7 shots (making 3) and none from behind the arc. He hit 5 of 6 free throws to finish with 11 points but those numbers are minor when you see he grabbed 14 rebounds including a put back late in the fourth to help seal the game.
- Darrell Armstrong played the crunch time minutes in the fourth quarter and hit a few shots to help keep the Bobcats from shrinking the lead.
- Shawne Williams has become a regular in the playing rotation and played like a regular pro tonight hitting 5 of 6 shots including a 3-ball and put back in the crucial fourth quarter. Good stuff and a twinkle of hope for the future Pacers.
- Interestingly, especially with Foster out, Ike Diogu played less than ten minutes and didn't even get a shot attempt off. Considering J.O.'s recent knee and ankle problems you'd figure Ike would get a lot more burn. J.O. ended up playing 40 minutes and had a tough shooting night only making 4 of 18 FGAs. Hopefully J.O. will be ready to go again tomorrow for the second half of the back-to-back against Boston. I understand and appreciate J.O. not wanting to leave the court tonight. This was the most important game of the season. A loss and Saturday's game is just a tick more important than worthless. But, with the win, Saturday's game now becomes the most important game of the season. Each win raises the stakes for the playoff hunt, so there should be a buzz not heard for quite awhile in the Fieldhouse Saturday night as the Celtics come to town.