The basketball gods smiled on the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night.
It's about time.
After 48 minutes against the Detroit Pistons wasn't enough time to settle a game that was tight the whole way, the Pacers dismissed their 0-4 overtime record and took early control of the extra five minutes. With 1:52 left, Troy Murphy drained his second OT 3-ball to put the Pacers up 103-98.
But if you've been paying attention, 1:52 is way too much time and five points not nearly a big enough lead for the Pacers to feel comfortable. Sure enough Antonio McDyess drew the Pistons back within three, forcing the Pacers to make another play to maintain control.
As the shot clock withered away, the possession appeared to be slipping away. T.J. Ford was left with the ball and forced to take a contested 18-footer with three Pistons under the hoop awaiting the miss. Not the best shot considering the situation. In fact, it wasn't even a good shot. It was the type of shot missed in earlier games that would open the door for an improbable collapse and loss.
But this is when the basketball gods smiled.
Ford's offering bounced high off the iron and then bounced up a second time, but that second bounce moved the ball over the hoop and when the leather met net, the Pacers were up five with 38 seconds left and you knew the W was meant to be.
Jarrett Jack closed it out from the line and the Pacers exhaled with a 110-106 win. For once, the Pacers avoided disaster and made the breaks go their way for a win.
Plenty of interesting items in this one:
- T.J.'s shot was huge, but it never happens if Danny Granger doesn't hit an ice cold 20-footer with three seconds left in regulation to force the OT. Granger struggled from the floor all night but came through when it mattered. Oh, and despite the struggles, Granger finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds doing battle with Tayshaun Prince all night.
- The game-sealing free throws in OT were a little redemption for Jarrett Jack who nearly gave the game away in regulation. With less than a minute to play and the Pacers down two, Jack forced the action with a drive to the hoop and couldn't draw a foul. His reaction to the no call earned a technical foul with 48 seconds left. It appeared this would be the last gasp for the Pacers, but somehow (basketball gods?) Tayshaun Prince missed the technical free throw and then Prince missed a wide open game-sealing 17-footer with 11 seconds to go. The Prince misses left an opening for Granger's heroics and lifted Jack off the hook.
- With Danny's offensive output down a bit, the Pacers spread the wealth with T.J. Ford pumping in 23 off the bench and Troy Murphy adding 18 including those two monster 3-balls in OT. The Pacers had six players in double-figures on a tough shooting night, so it took a team effort to win and a team effort was given.
- The Pacers defense was better than it showed on the recent road trip. They protected the paint as well as they have all year as the Pistons settled for a lot of jump shots all night.
- The Pacers finished the 53 minutes with only 10 turnovers continuing a stretch of improved possession protection.
- Rodney Stuckey was the designated Pacer opponent to go off, finishing with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Stuck is a beast. Allen Iverson also tacked on 23 points for the productive Pistons backcourt.
- The Pacers were close to full strength tonight with Mike Dunleavy getting his first start of the year and T.J. Ford able to play (and play well) for 28 plus minutes. Marquis Daniels was still out with the groin strain which has become more than a nagging injury.
- So how will the Pacers react to this solid W? With Jermaine O'Neal returning to the Fieldhouse on Friday, the Pacers should have no problem firing up for another big effort.