The Indiana Pacers made plays and free throws in the final two minutes to close out a home win over the Golden State Warriors, 127-120.
This was a strange game from the get go. The injury-altered lineups, the small ball at all cost, and the rapid fire shot attempts made this a game of runs. That was obvious early when Golden State started the game with a 9-0 run and then the Pacers answered with a 9-2 run of their own. It was a race to 120 points and even that seemed like it wouldn't be enough after the first quarter with the Pacers leading 40-29.
Plus, until late in the game, the small, life-less crowd combined with the back and forth pace to make the game feel like an exhibition. A rec league exhibition. Despite discount tickets, the light crowd was no surprise, simply the result of busy holiday schedules and a 1-4 road trip.
But enough about the feel, the W is all that matters now and the Pacers had to dig deep to make it happen. With all the missing players on both teams, several players were forced to run heavy minutes. The Warriors were missing Corey Magette to go along with Monta Ellis who has been out all year. For the Pacers, Mike Dunleavy was joined in coat and collar by T.J. Ford (strained groin) and Troy Murphy (sick).
Jim O'Brien employed a small-ball lineup all night, starting Brandon Rush along with Jeff Foster, Danny Granger, Marquis Daniels and Jarrett Jack. Rush would end up playing over 42 minutes, Granger just over 40. Jarrett Jack played just over 37 as Travis Diener made a rare appearance for 10 minutes of relief. So considering the pace, the game was a struggle physically and the Pacers still finished strong relying on all of that hard work JOB puts them through.
The best part about this win is how the Pacers came through in the final minutes to seal the win. Marquis Daniels hurt his shoulder early in the fourth, putting Stephen Graham in for closing time. Stevie began the final two minutes by scoring buckets at the hoop on successive possessions. The Warriors matched with free throws leaving the Pacers up 118-115.
With about one minute left, Jarrett Jack rose up and knocked down a 3-ball. The Pacers were first to 120, up six and from there had make free throws to win it.
Make free throws they did, six of six to be exact. Jack made the first two with 22 seconds left and then Granger made four to keep the Warriors at least two possessions behind without a chance to break hearts from behind the arc. Number 33 stepped up and closed out the game just like ol' number 31 used to do. Beautiful.
Plenty of notes from this one:
- Have to start with Danny and his 41 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. It wasn't a perfect 41. There were stretches of clankers and what are you thinking-ers, but 41 shines none the less and Danny's 17-17 effort from the line was huge. I guess the kid is playing pretty well when I start giving style considerations after he drops 41.
- Brandon Rush started his second game and led the team in minutes played. Now, defense was optional tonight but B-Rush maintained the effort much of the night. He finished with two blocks and two steals to go along with his double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. You know he was doing something right at the defensive end because he really struggled shooting the ball, making just 4-17 shots.
- JOB stayed small all night and tightened up the rotation so even with Murph out, neither Roy Hibbert nor Josh McRoberts saw any time. I would've liked to see McRoberts out there tonight with his active game at both ends.
- Jarrett Jack's 38 minutes were hard minutes. The guy was running things while he was on the floor so there was no floating for Jack. Like Danny, he had a few poor stretches during the game but when it was money time he was all in. Among his season-best 24 points, the five points he put up in the final 1:04 of the game were huge. He also snuck in a nice dig at Travis Diener in the post-game interview with Stacy Paetz. While making sure he mentioned Travis toughing it out to give ten minutes at less than 100%, he said, well, except for that air ball. His laugh following the comment reveals how well those guys get along.
- Stephen Graham was pressed into an extra eight minutes of play when Marquis Daniels was unable to return after hurting his shoulder. Aside from the big plays mentioned above, the fact that Stevie played 31 minutes at +19 clip tells you how much he helped bring home this W.
- Quisy continued his solid play for most of the game until he was hurt. Hopefully the shoulder isn't too serious. I must admit, when Stacy first reported on the shoulder and the thought of Quisy, T.J., Murph and Dun in suits flashed in my head, I thought about last year's Miami Heat for a second. It was only a second, though. Honest.
- Considering the back-and-forth nature of this game at a fast pace, the Pacers fared pretty well with only 12 turnovers. Only the 3 or 4 fourth quarter mind-numbers stick out as maddening. The Pacers also won the battle on the boards, 57-49.
- Stephen Jackson battled all night desperately in need of some help. Sounded like he evoked cheers from some fans and boos from others. With Jamal Crawford and Marco Belinelli launching shots, S-Jack picked his spots, but still finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds.
- Finally, for a little humor, I have to mention Stephen Graham and Quisy converting an air-less alley oop. Stephen Graham had the ball on the right side with Quisy running with him on the left side. Stephen Jackson was in between and ready to break up the fun. But when Graham floated the ball in the air for Quisy to go up and get a strange thing happened. Quisy stayed on the ground and caught the ball. Stephen Jackson ended up off balance waiting to go up with Quisy to disrupt the play. When Quisy stayed on the ground, S-Jack went by and Quisy completed the layup. It was one of those plays that only Quisy could pull off and appear in rhythm.