The Indiana Pacers hung on for dear life to beat the Toronto Raptors after letting their 24-point lead to start the fourth quarter wither down to one point with 1:13 left in the game. But just in the nick of time, big plays from Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger led to Jarrett Jack salting the game away at the line for a wild W, 111-104.
For the better part of three quarters, the Indiana Pacers played as well as they have all year with the 24-point lead to start the fourth quarter as proof. After starting the game clanking seven of their first nine shots, the Pacers played incredibly through the end of the third quarter.
There was real live defense leading to easy buckets. There was a ton of ball movement around a well-spaced floor to entice the extra pass for layups. Also, from about midway through the first quarter until halftime, all twelve active players saw action. It was fitting that the whole team had a hand in this great stretch of play.
So what happened to all the basketball goodness in the fourth quarter?
Well, simply put, the Pacers exhaled a bit to start the fourth quarter while the Raptors surged with all their might for one last push. It was as if when the Pacers saw Jermaine O'Neal with ice packs on his knees to start the fourth quarter that they figured the Raps were done as well.
But the Pacers couldn't put the W on ice and then as things started slipping they lost their composure. Josh McRoberts picked up fouls in bunches and then a technical foul when the frustration overwhelmed him. Danny Granger was struggling from the floor and took exception to some interior play by Chris Bosh. Well after the whistle, Granger shoved Bosh which also earned a technical foul.
The Pacers were priming the pump for a classic NBA comeback by the Raptors. Everyone knows that when you're up by twenty plus, any calls that could go either way are going to favor the team that's losing. If I know it, then the players should be aware of it. At least two of the fouls on McRoberts were questionable, so he had a legit beef, but you have to know the time and score situation. The Raptors needed extra help to comeback and technicals are just the type of play that feeds a comeback. Expect the bad calls, handle the bad calls, and overcome the bad calls.
Along with the fouls, the Pacers just couldn't stop the Raptors to put the game away. The Raps put up 39 points as Chris Bosh went nutty in the fourth, seeming to grab every rebound and having a hand in cleaning up any misses by his teammates.
If the Pacers could've just swapped buckets with the Raps they would've been fine, but the iron became unkind. After getting riled up by Bosh, Granger couldn't connect on several solid looks comparable to those he's been feasting on all year. He was 0-9 in the fourth until finally driving past Bosh for a little runner that put the Pacers up six with 25 seconds left.
Considering Granger's struggles, Mike Dunleavy's presence was the difference between another fatal collapse and what turned out to be a great escape. From the seven minute mark to the one minute mark in the fourth quarter, the Pacers only scored nine points. Dun scored five of those which were the only perimeter points in that stretch. While they weren't much, they were something and those points kept the Raptors at bay just a bit longer.
Then with the lead down to one with 51 seconds left, Dun made the game saving play as he pumped Bosh in the air and drew a shooting foul from behind the arc. He then stepped up and knocked down all three free throws.
A turnover at the other end led to Granger's drive and then six Jarrett Jack free throws pushed the winning margin out of reach. Whew!
- T.J. Ford played pretty solid off the bench and also helped make some plays in the fourth to keep the Raptors from steamrolling their way past the Pacers. While playing through some pain, Ford was able to go for 22 minutes and score 12 points with zero turnovers.
- Troy Murphy had another big double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds including 3-6 from distance.
- Danny Granger ended up shooting 8-24 form the field after his frustrating fourth quarter. The whole night was pretty frustrating thanks to foul trouble. When Andrea Bargnani jumped out to a hot start, Danny shifted over to guard the big Italian and was a bit too aggressive which drew two quick fouls to send him to the bench with three in the second quarter. Then another quick foul in the third strapped Danny to the bench for much of the third quarter. Just one of those night where he could never get his game in rhythm.
- Jermaine O'Neal played 17 minutes without much impact. He finished with 2 points and 7 rebounds. Pretty anticlimactic return for J. O.
- The shame of the fourth quarter implosion was it ruined what was a great effort up to that point. The first half defense was stunning as the Pacers were a step quicker to every loose ball or spot on the floor to gain an advantage. Even in the third quarter I took note of fouls on consecutive plays by Granger and Dunleavy on long perimeter shots by the Raptors. While they did foul, it was nice to see those perimeter shots tightly contested even if on they were a little too tightly contested.