Once again, the Indiana Pacers found themselves in a race to 120 points Monday night, this time against the Utah Jazz. The Pacers lack of defense was on full display as the Jazz blew a big lead but held on to secure the win, 120-113.
The Jazz led by seven at the half and as many as 20 in the third quarter but the Pacers stuck with their MO and continued grinding their way back into the game. The lead was down to three with 2:29 left in the game but the Jazz would go on to close out the game from there.
So who was the lucky Jazz player to go off against the Pacers tonight?
Well, that would be Mehmet Okur. Okur hit all kinds of jumpers (well, jump-setters), on his way to a career-high 43 points. He was 13-19 from the field hitting open shots from the wing, wide open shots from the top of the arc, bank shots after being left completely alone. Early in the game it was as if the defensive game plan was to give Okur any shot he wanted
Needless to say, the Pacer bigs had trouble covering the Turkish wonder. I found myself begging for something different, since obviously the current defensive plan was failing once again. Foster appeared a bit out of sorts all night so why not try Josh McRoberts. He's active enough to move with Okur. Just tell him to focus on covering Okur and force another Jazz player make shots.
What's the worst thing that could happen? Josh fouls out in five minutes and Okur still goes for 43? Honestly, it couldn't be any worse.
Still, the Pacers had a chance late in the game but two plays by the Jazz and a lack of execution on offense snuffed out the effort to steal a W. First with 1:24 left in the game and the Pacers down four, the Jazz were scrambling for the ball late in the shot clock and Deron Williams picked up the ball and chucked up a 30-footer that went in to push the lead to seven. This was the dagger that sucked the life out of the Pacers.
After a Foster layup at the other end, the Pacers appeared to catch a break when Deron Williams missed a layup. But between Jarrett Jack and Jeff Foster, neither could put a body on Andrei Kirilenko and he waltzed in for a rebound and flush. Those plays combined to keep the Pacers from taking the game down to the final possession.
Meanwhile the Pacers will sleep it off on their flight home and hopefully dream up some answers for how to win, again.
- At times, the Pacers definitely looked like a team playing the back half of a back-to-back with the plane home idling at the airport. Jeff Foster looked out of it for some reason. Shortly after joining the action in the first quarter, Foster bricked a bunny, coughed up a horrible turnover right under Jazz hoop and then slowly moved across the lane on defense to draw a defensive T. Strange. My first thought was that he must be thinking about seeing his kids when he gets home.
- The Jazz initially took control of the game with a16-2 run late in second quarter. Lack of depth reared its head with Danny Granger catching a rest on the bench. Mike Dunleavy was not up for his second quarter minutes, although he played well in the second half finishing with 20 points.
- Granger finished the night with 30 points but could never get free enough to go on a tear down the stretch in the fourth quarter. It was one of those nights for Danny. At one point late in the first half, Gragner was taking the ball to the hoop on a transition opportunity, when Deron Williams tried to grab him to prevent the layup but the ref just blinked and let it go. Fortunately, the next time down Danny got him for an and 1, but still, nothing came easy tonight.
- The Pacers were without Marquis Daniels and T.J. Ford. The team could desperately use Quisy to pitch in on the defensive end because there is nothing there right now.
- After going 1-4 on the road trip and playing four of the top five scoring teams in the league (the Pacers are third) the numbers are crazy. The average score was Opponent 121, Pacers 115.
- Kelly Dwyer had this game as his Game to pay attention to tonight. He also offered up some kind words for sideline reporter/TV host Stacy Paetz. Speaking of Stacy, she offered up a little tidbit about Deron Williams considering Georgia Tech until they gave his scholly to Jarrett Jack.