The Indiana Pacers are searching for wins by any means necessary, so after Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster, Travis Diener, Rasho Nesterovic and Josh McRoberts (Jarrett Jack was already stached up) unveiled the ugly mustache crew the Pacers came together to make sure the razors remained untouched by hanging on to beat the Houston Rockets, 107-102.
After the game, Troy Murphy admitted a few of them had to apply a little Just For Men to fill in the gaps for a "better" look. Murph appeared to make the most of his facial fuzz by pouring in 14 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
But this was a different game for the Pacers for more substantial reasons. While the Pacers built up a 17-point lead they weren't able to put away the W until seconds remained in the game. The Rockets cut the lead to two with less than 30 seconds to go in the game but solid free throw shooting secured the win for the Pacers.
Despite the third quarter lead, the Pacers were never really firing on all cylinders. They shot poorly most of the night and ended up having to scrap and make plays to win the game and make plays they did. The fourth quarter turned wild as the Rockets found their offensive groove and the Pacers were forced to keep pace.
Here are a few key plays the Pacers made to hold on to the lead in the fourth quarter:
- Troy Murphy seemed to most naturally flow with the stache as he put up his 22nd double-double. He even cashed in one of his 16 rebounds on the offensive end to follow a Jack miss with a two-handed jam.
- Danny Granger pushed the lead back to 10 points with 5:50 to go when he drilled a 3-ball with Chuck Hayes invading his personal space and the shot clock a second from ending the possession.
- Later after a timeout with the Rockets creeping back within seven points, Dunleavy fed Foster for a dunk off a side pick and roll to put the lead back to nine. On the next offensive possession, Granger was stuck with an awkward baseline shots but Dunleavy scrapped for position under the rim and wrestled away a rebound and drew a foul on Luis Scola. Dun knocked down both free throws to again keep the lead at nine.
- The Rockets just kept coming as the Pacers tried to run out the clock. Von Wafer hit a second-chance three with 26 seconds left the lead was down to two. Then Luis Scola fouled out after smacking Jarrett Jack on the head which forced Jack to get in his face. T.J. Ford intervened and focused Jack back on the task at hand. Jack settled down and made both free throws to keep the game at two possessions.
- Finally, with a four-point lead, Danny Granger threw a dagger at the defensive end. After pump faking a 3-ball, Von Wafter took the ball to the rim for a dunk. Granger rotated over and met Wafer at the rim to deny the dunk. Quisy corralled the miss and passed to T.J. Ford. Ford was fouled and clinched the game by making both free throws. Ford would make two more free throws to finish the scoring for the Pacers. In the fourth quarter, Ford scored 12 of his 21 points and made all eight of his free throw attempts.
A few more notes:
- Yao Ming tweaked his right knee late in the first quarter and was never a factor. He tried to give it a go in the second quarter but it wasn't happening. After the half, he never returned so the Rockets were without Yao, Ronnie Artest and Tracy McGrady. Been there, done that, but for the Pacers they had to cash in this W.
- The Pacers overcame a poor shooting night by only turning the ball over 11 times compared to the Rockets 19 and making 11 more free throws than the Rockets. Danny Granger and T.J. Ford combined to make 25 of 26 free throws.
- After the game, Granger admitted he just can't grow a mustache because of his baby face and grows the facial hair he has because he rarely shaves. Hmmm. I think that's enough facial hair discussion for one night.
- With 5:15 left in the half, Chuck Hayes set the NBA back a few strides when his yip infested free throw missed wide left and hard off the glass. Poor Stacy Paetz was wrapping up an attempt to report on the Pacers 'stache crew with a straight face and the miss by Hayes was so offensive that Quinn Buckner just blurted out, "OHHH!!!" He had to apologize, but then the camera panned to Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush and Marquis Daniels on the bench trying to contain themselves and commenting to a laughing Von Wafer. Then the camera panned to the Rockets side and Dikembe Mutombo and Tracy McGrady were trying to make sense of the mess Hayes threw up there without laughing too hard. Just another classic moment in the NBA.