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Nets 124, Pacers 117: Pacers Stumble

Pacers stumble and fall behind Nets.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The Indiana Pacers stumbled Wednesday night on their attempted march back into the playoff picture, losing 124-117 to a New Jersey Nets team that now stands two games ahead of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings. The Pacers fell 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks, creating two challenging hurdles for the Pacers to clear in order to make the playoffs. A rematch with the Nets at the Fieldhouse on Friday can quickly move things back in the right direction, but they're going to need some help from Atlanta at some point.

The game tonight started out bad when Troy Murphy was unable to go due to a bout with strep throat. Shawne Williams in Murph's place giving the Pacers their 19th different starting lineup this year.

The Pacers missed Murph consistent production and his absence seemed to muck up the rotation. After making significant contributions in the last three games, Shawne Williams was pressing a bit too much and really struggled. He never found a rhythm or his proper spot in the defensive scheme.

The Nets scored 68 first half points and many were far too easy. The defensive lapses don't all fall on Shawne. The number of easy buckets at the rim for the Nets indicts everyone playing D for the Pacers. How bad was it? Josh Boone scored 21 points on 9 of 9 shooting in the first half. Several of those buckets were dunks. If not for some quality shooting from 3-land, making 7 of their first 9 attempts, the Pacers would've been housed early. It seemed like a miracle when Mike Dunleavy hit a late 3-ball at the half to bring the Pacers within eight points.

As we've come to expect with the Pacers, they dug in and battled in the second half. In fact, the game was tied at 77 as the defense tightened up a bit. In the end though, the Pacers were just a bit out of sync all night, which will happen when the team is forced to use several playing combinations that are rare or have never been used before.

For the Nets, aside from Boone, Devin Harris and Vince Carter were the Pacer killers tonight. Harris looked a lot like last night's version of Chris Paul. The guy is quick and was able to get into the lane at will. Carter was just solid inside and out, especially down the stretch.

For the Pacers, Mike Dunleavy pumped in 33 points with seven assists. Real solid effort on a heavy minute night.

Foul trouble gave Ike Diogu an early call and he was ready to play. In fact, Ike's production cut into David Harrison's minutes in the second half. Ike finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds, working hard inside with several real strong finishes.

The Pacers are about out of tomorrows. Friday's game will be critical and the Pacers have to come out in a better frame of mind than they did tonight. The Nets were the team ready for a playoff-type game tonight. They were able to catch the short-handed Pacers on their heels which had the Blue and Gold playing uphill all night.