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Pacers 85, 76ers 76: Four In A Row

I knew this would be a good night right after the opening tip. Sam Dalembert gave the Sixers a decided advantage on the tip, but Danny Granger slid early to the spot behind two Sixers where the tip was directed and snatched the ball for an easy layup. Yep, Danny came to play and he led the way all night.

The Pacers pulled out a critical 85-78 road win over the Philadeliphia 76ers tonight. It wasn't always pretty, but with the effort at both ends of the floor the Pacers were able to grind out one of their most impressive wins of the year.

Yes, the Pacers have played better this year, for instance when they pounded Utah and beat Dallas and Golden State. But in those games, the offense was flowing easily and shots were dropping.

I found tonight's game more impressive than any other win because of what was at stake and the fact that they played a sloppy game offensively for much of the night. 20 turnovers including seven from Flip Murray made for a frustrating evening until midway through the third quarter. Seriously, 20 turnovers seems low because all the wasted possessions were so valuable tonight.

When Philly started making a run in the third quarter, I had the sinking feeling that all the sloppy play was going to finally do in the Pacers. I even found myself pining for the Pacers to slow down the pace and use some clock.

Danny Granger had other plans, though. 33 showed off his developing leadership, not to mention sick game, as he simply refused the let the Pacers give up the lead. Granger scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half. He also grabbed 12 boards and had a couple of nice blocks, denying Sixer finishes at the rim. Bold, is how he played. His jaw was set with a slight scowl and he just played with an eye-opening assertiveness that no one else on the floor could match. Playoffs or not, this stretch of play by Granger, late in tight games with the season on the line, has been monumental. His all-around game is exploding. Can't wait to see if he can bring it again tomorrow night.

Along with Granger, the Pacers took back control of the game late in the third quarter by using a lineup with Diener, Marquis, Danny, Dunleavy, and Jermaine. J.O. played real well off the bench again, chipping in seven rebounds, a couple of blocks and three sweet assists. This group really played well, especially at the defensive end. Mmm, great stuff.

Really nice to have a win that was fueled by defensive effort. It's hard to overcome 20 turnovers, but one way to do it is to hold the opponent to 35% shooting from the field. Philly also chipped in by only making 9 of 21 free throw attempts when the contested shots were a little tight. That defense kept the Pacers in good position all night until Granger and the rest of the offense kicked into gear in time to put away the win. What could've been an ugly and extremely frustrating loss, became one of the better and most crucial W's of the season.

The Pacers have to ramp up the effort again tomorrow night at the Fieldhouse as the Charlotte Bobcats come to town. The Bobcats are always trouble with enough fire power to get hot and torch the Pacers on any given night. Unfortunately, the Hawks hung on to beat the Knicks, so the Pacers have to keep winning to keep the playoff hopes alive.