The Indiana Pacers made just enough plays late in the fourth quarter to hang on for a 98-93 win over the visiting Charlotte Bobcats.
After a 10-0 run in the second quarter, the Pacers appeared in control throughout the rest of the game as the lead hovered between six and twelves points for most of the game. But these are the Pacers, so you know it would go down to the wire and in the final three minutes the Bobcats made a push and cut the lead to one possession at 96-93 with 1:24 left to go.
As you can see from the final score, just as they did in the win over Houston, the Pacers didn't fall back on a big offensive play to win the game late. Instead, they went to work defensively and didn't allow the Bobcats another bucket. Jeff Foster and T.J. Ford both made 1 of 2 free throws which kept everyone's attention but did create a two-possession cushion, adding pressure to Charlotte's offense.
I mentioned it before the game and I still believe this Charlotte team is moving in the right direction and this is a solid win. Jim O'Brien opened his post-game press conference by saying, "Yay, Pacers!" so I think he agrees.
Here are a few notes and observations:
- When Danny Granger and Gerald Wallace were matched up together they were going at it hard at both ends, playing like there was some manhood on the line. Wallace is sculpted hoops specimen who can finish in a hurry. I'd say Granger got the best of him on this night, though, outscoring Wallace 27 to 10. In Wallace's defense, he had to deal with Marquis Daniels and Stephen Graham when Granger was resting, so it took a full team effort to hold Wallace down (1-8 FGs).
- T.J. Ford finished the game with 13 points and 7 assists and by finish the game I mean literally. With Jarrett Jack fumbling around a bit, JOB inserted Ford with about five minutes left and he did his part to close out the win. In fact, during that final stretch Ford grabbed three rebounds, two of which stood out in helping to seal the W. First, after Troy Murphy missed a three with 1:07 left, Ford was running through the lane and leaped with all his might amongst the trees to tap the ball out to Danny Granger. The saved possession allowed the Pacers to run off another 20 seconds and ended up with Foster making 1 of 2 free throws. The second rebound was off a Wallace missed three with eight seconds left. Ford went up in traffic and secured the rebound, then made 1 of 2 free throws to secure the W.
- The highlight of the night may have been Jim O'Brien going Billy Martin on referee Pat Fraher after Fraher swallowed his whistle when Mike Dunleavy was smashed into the basket support while trying to finish at the hoop. JOB went onto the court and ended up nose-to-nose with the ref. Fraher had to give him a T and I don't know how he didn't toss him. JOB must've had a point which Fraher realized so he turned his head and let it go with the one T.
- Jeff Foster was a montser on the glass in the first half and finished the game with 13 rebounds, but ten of those were on the offensive glass. The Pacers seemed to have trouble cashing them in but there were plenty of extra possessions available thanks to Foster. Overall the Pacers had a 52 to 37 rebounding advantage over Charlotte which reversed a trend of losing the rebound battle from the past couple of games.
- Mike Dunleavy only played 23 minutes. After the game, JOB mentioned that Dun is still struggling a bit with his knee. Quisy and Ford are also continuing to play through pain, so I guess it helps having everyone available so the minutes can be spread around to save a little wear and tear.
- Maceo Baston has slipped into the rotation where Hibbert or McRoberts had been finding minutes. Hibbert was dealing with remnants of a concussion but I don't believe that was the cause of his inactivity tonight. With all 14 players available and a few practice days lately, it appears JOB is sticking with the merit system.
- XL 950's Greg Rakestraw offered me a couple of cogent facts on the evening. First, there were three of the top 17 picks in the last NBA draft on hand tonight and none of them played. Roy Hibbert was inactive, Brandon Rush was active but didn't play, and D.J. Augustin was inactive with an ab strain. Which leads to Rake's second irrefutable fact. Sean Singletary ripped up the ACC for Virginia, but he is one small dude, even appearing smaller than T.J. Ford.
- Bloomington South's and Bobcat forward, Sean May was inactive for tonight's game but he was quite active before the game getting some work in. May actually looks as svelte as I've seen him in some time. Apparently he has seven pounds left to drop before Larry Brown will activate him. Looks like he's on his way.
- During pre-game Adam Morrison was draining 3-ball after 3-ball with a real efficient stroke that was simply a pleasure to watch. Granted he was uncovered and simply pounding out reps, but still, sweet stroke. As Morrison continues to work his way into regular minutes, it just goes to show how much game you have to bring to play in the NBA. Of course, once in the game Ammo splashed his first attempt but still, he only play about seven minutes.
- Still seems crazy to talk about the playoffs but the Pacers remain in the mix. Danny Granger is certainly focused on the team's effort to reach the post-season. After the game, he stopped what he was doing to cheer for the Minnesota Timberwolves during the final seconds of their overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls.