The Indiana Pacers took advantage of a favorable matchup Friday night, to out run the visiting New Jersey Nets, 113-103. There were plenty of heroes, but two key points in the game stood out.
Early in the third quarter, Bostjan Nachbar drove baseline for an easy layup. On the next possession, Vince Carter drove through the lane for another layup. Help? Rotation? Not acceptable. The score was tied 58-58 but Jim O'Brien couldn't take it anymore and called a time out to discuss defense.
O'B must've pushed the right buttons becasue for the remaining 9:42 of the third quarter, the Pacers outscored the Nets, 27-14. The defense tightened up and the path to hoop was no longer clear for the Nets. Charges were taken, shots were altered, or at worst fouls given. The resulting 13 point cushion at the end of the quarter was huge for a Pacer team that lacks confidence in closing out wins.
Which leads me to the second critical point in the game. That would be winning time. Early in the fourth quarter the lead was up to 16, but with five minutes left the Nets had it down to 101-91. Uh-oh.
Earlier in the day, Larry Bird bemoaned the lack of a leader to close out games in the fourth quarter. Was anyone listening?
Well, there weren't too many heroics but the Pacers certainly took care of business in the final five minutes to secure the win. Mike Dunleavy knocked down a 3-ball to stop the Nets' 8-0 run. From there, four Pacers combined to make 9 of 10 free throws to put away the W. Ahhh.
- The New Jersey Nets are ahead of the Indiana Pacers in the standings but after trading away Jason Kidd and not having new point guard Devin Harris available, the short-handed Pacers actually matched up quite well against the Nets. With the recent schedule, it seems like months since the Pacers weren't overmatched.
- I must say, it sure was nice not having Kidd running around out there with Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy were able to match the efforts of Carter and Jefferson, which allowed the remaining matchups to fall the Pacers way, leading to a win. Carter scored 15 while Granger finished with 16. Jefferson's big 34 point night was matched by Dunleavy who poured in 34 of his own. Nice to see an aggressive Dunleavy attacking at the offensive end, again. Been a few games.
- Five other Pacers finished in double figures, led by Travis Diener who scored 19, dished out 6 assists and grabbed 8 rebounds. With only one turnover in 43 minutes, Diener thoroughly outplayed the Nets' PG combo of Marcus Williams and Darrell Armstrong.
- Speaking of DA, he put on a patented burst in the second quarter, putting up nine points over a five minute stretch which started with a familiar buzzer-beater to end the first quarter.
- Danny Granger ended his consecutive made free throw streak at 65 in the third quarter. Granger's streak surpassed Reggie Miller's 61 straight for the club record. Anytime you're breaking Reggie Miller free throw records, you're doing something right.
- The Nets and Pacers will do it again tomorrow night from the Meadowlands. Hopefully, the shots will continue to fall.