The Indiana Pacers' season took another whiplash-inducing turn Friday night, as the visiting Los Angeles Clippers outlasted the severely short-handed Pacers in double-overtime, 117-109.
Local legend, Eric Gordon unfurled his gorgeous jumper late in the second OT and hit all net to put the Clippers up seven and put away the Pacers for good. But before EJ's dagger there were story lines developing out of thin air that only the 2008-09 Pacers could conjure up.
Let's start with what was missing. For starters (literally), Danny Granger, Marquis Daniels and Troy Murphy were all out, suffering the effects of a viral infection. None will travel with the team to Philly and it is unlikely they will hop a flight tomorrow to join the team.
With all the missing firepower, JOB ran out some player combination I never thought I'd see in a regular season game. And the scary thing is, they all played well for much of the night. The effort was incredible for all 58 minutes.
While the effort was solid the whole way through, some critical mistakes both physical and mental spoiled the opportunity for the Pacers to grab the W.
Jarrett Jack had a huge game, putting up big numbers while playing more than 48 minutes. Unfortunately, Jack also played a big role in letting the Clippers off the hook in regulation and the first OT. With a chance for a four-point lead with 20 second left in the game, Jack missed one of two free throws. After a quick Clipper bucket, Jack hit two free throws, but with the lead now at three, Al Thornton made like Paul Pierce and drained a cold-blooded three to tie it up. A T.J. Ford turnover kept the Pacers from even getting a game-winner in the air.
So, now we move to the end of the first overtime. With 21 seconds left and the score tied at 105, Josh McRoberts (yeah, more on this later) rose up and swatted Zach Randolph's shot at the rim. Beautiful play which put the ball in Jack's hands in the open court. Tie game, shot clock is off, what do you do? If you don't work for the last shot, at least take a good open shot or layup. Nope. Jack pushed the ball up the court, tried driving through a couple of Clippers and had an awkward shot stuffed by Baron Davis.
Not a smart play on a couple of levels based on the time and game situation. Fortunately, the Pacers defended Baron Davis well and he missed his shot at the win. But in the second overtime, the Pacers stumbled offensively, continued turning the ball over liberally and the Clippers put them away.
Frustrating night to come so close to wining a game that wasn't expected. Here are some other thoughts:
- Not a surprise that the Pacers struggled to find an offensive flow. In the second OT they were running with T.J., Jack, Rasho, Brandon Rush and Josh McRoberts. Jeff Foster fouled out late in the fourth, so Josh finished the game from there. This was just one of many wild lineups I never expected to see this year. Another interesting group that played a good stretch in the second half was Rush, Graham, Rasho, Diener and McRoberts.
- So despite all the wild player combinations and lack of healthy bodies, the Pacers had a real chance to win. Somehow the effort was nullifying what at times can only be described as horrid play. 25 turnovers ended up being lethal, but again, the players available spilled their guts.
- Roy Hibbert started the game and came out strong. He didn't play much in the second half but finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
- Jarrett Jack did plenty of good throughout the game as he tangled with Baron Davis much of the night. His 27 points, 7 assists and 3 steals put the Pacers in position to steal this one.
- Brandon Rush had another brutal shooting night, but somehow played over 54 minutes. Rush finished with 14 points, 4 assists and 7 rebounds, but was 1 of 8 from 3-land and 5 of 22 from the field. He was really trying to get it going in the first half and started forcing a few bad shots. He settled down late in the game and actually knocked down a big three late.
- Josh McRoberts is just a bundle of scrapping effort when he's on the court. He made some big plays through sheer hustle in the extra minutes. He struggles offensively to get a rhythm for his shot. Seems like he's so fired up, he's can't calm his shot down to stroke it in a natural rhythm.
- Eric Gordon and Zach Randolph showed up nicely for the Clips. EJ played most of the game and didn't shoot it real well until the game was in the balance and he drained the corner three. Zach is an absolute beast on the block. He finished with 34 points and 16 rebounds.
- So somehow this group has to catch its breath and do it all again tomorrow night in Philly. The Sixers will be without Elton Brand but considering Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Marquis Daniels and Troy Murphy aren't expected to play, I don't think the Pacers will feel sorry for Philly.