Well, the Indiana Pacers never led the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night, but they did have the ball, down one, with less than a minute to play. That qualifies as a chance to win the game late in the fourth, which the Pacers failed to do again for the fourth game in a row, losing at home to the Hawks, 110-104.
Actually, that makes six straight games for the Pacers that were up for grabs with less than a minute left to play. With a 1-5 record in those six games, the Pacers continue to look for answers.
The Hawks used their young, athletic talent to continually attack the Pacers and make life difficult for Danny Granger all night. The long and gifted Josh Smith was missing in November when the Pacers beat the Hawks. Tonight Smith was a huge factor, scoring 24 points and blanketing Granger on the Pacers' critical possession down one with one minute to go.
Granger was taking the shot and tried to find an opening a couple of times before gathering himself and going at Smith one last time. As he pulled up on the baseline, Smith and his long arms were waiting forcing Danny to alter one handed half hook that didn't have a chance. With the Pacers down four on their next possession, Smith was there to stymie Danny's attempt to finish at the hoop, which he did, sending the home fans to the exits.
Oh, about that "down four on their next possession" part. After Granger's initial miss, the Hawks worked their possession with the Pacers appearing to be in good shape until they suddenly found themselves in the worst shape possible. A failed rotation from the top of the key left Joe Johnson wide open from behind the arc. Dagger. Thanks for playing.
The Hawks were simply too good tonight and the Pacers didn't have the energy or execution to do anything but chase the Hawks from behind all night.
The game had a strange feel and flow to it. I can't put my finger on it but I know the sporadic and frequent whistles by the refs in the third quarter didn't help. For a 110-104 game, it really seemed like a grind, played in spurts. For the Pacers, I almost felt like they were wanting to hurry up and get to the final three minutes of the game so they could take another shot and closing out a win. When that time came, though, the intensity never really seemed to change on either side. Strange.
- The Pacers weren't able to take advantage of a tough shooting night for the Hawks. The Hawks have excelled offensively this year with help from 3-land. Tonight they were only 6 of 23 from distance, though. Joe Johnson was only 2 of 6, although his two makes came in the fourth quarter. To their credit, the Hawks stuck with what has worked and it ended up pushing them to the W.
- Jarrett Jack was a monster in the fourth quarter. He finished several plays at the hoop, drew a couple of fouls and put the Pacers in position to win it late. Jack finished with 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting and only two turnovers.
- The Pacers made 23-29 FTs on the night, but four misses late in the game made it seem like a bad night at the line. Little things.
- The fluctuating game of Brandon Rush continued tonight as he made one shot (a three) on nine tries. He was put in position to defend Joe Johnson for critical stretches during the fourth quarter. JOB mentioned after the game he likes to see Rush experience defending a player like Johnson in the fourth quarter of a tight game.
- Speaking of Johnson, he simply did his thing tonight without appearing to do anyone any harm. Then you look up and he throws in the dagger three to seal the game and has 27 points, 5 assists and 7 rebounds. Prior to the game, Jim O'Brien described Johnson's game as if he plays on ice skates because he appears to glide, he's so smooth. I'd say Johnson backed up the that description during the game.
- JOB coached Joe Johnson for part of his rookie year before the Celtics traded him and a first round pick to Phoenix for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk. Oops. The Celts did make the Eastern Conference Finals that year, so JOB admitted the trade was good for the short-term success but horrible for the long-term outlook. I beg to differ, though, since that deal was one of several Boston missteps and bad ping pong ball bounces that serendipitously led to Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen helping the C's win a championship.
- T.J. Ford was able to play off the bench in the first half and provided a nice little spark after initially checking in. He was unable to go in the second half and his back appeared to be bothering him after the game.