The Indiana Pacers won their sixth straight home game, beating back the Milwaukee Bucks, 107-99.
Playing without Danny Granger, the Pacers relied on T.J. Ford to pick up the scoring load. Ford proved reliable for most of the game, and his 34 points certainly carried the Pacers offense. But it wasn't easy.
After bursting out to an early lead after the opening tip, the Pacers looked like they might cruise to an easy win fueled by what was Ford's best quarter of the season considering the situation. The Pacers were up 38-22 after one and Ford finished the quarter with 12 points 3 assists and zero turnovers. Plus, he set up teammates for a foul shots on a couple of possessions.
But from there Ford's game settled down and the Pacers gradually let the Bucks back in. After an all too familiar third quarter let down, the lead wouldn't get past ten points again and the Pacers would have to hang on while alternating good and awful possessions.
Since T.J. made this game go, it was fitting that he was the one providing the good, bad and ugly down the stretch. Four of Ford's five turnovers on the night were in the fourth quarter, but he also scored 13 points which included 3-4 from the line to help seal the game.
For the most part, the description of Ford's play could apply to the rest of the team. It was an ugly win but the team did make enough plays to hang up the W, so who am I to complain. Take it, enjoy the day off and get ready for Miami on Friday.
A few more notes:
- The Pacers burped up 22 turnovers including 15 in the second half which really made for the frustrating evening. The worst part is that the team's top ball handlers, Ford, Jarrett Jack and Mike Dunleavy combined for 11 of those TOs. Poor decision making across the board, especially in crunch time.
- Danny Granger is hoping to return on Friday and doesn't consider his knee a long-term concern at all. He bruised it about five games ago and it just needed some rest to finally heal.
- Rasho Nesterovic helped the Pacers salvage what they could out of the horrific third quarter by knocking down three 17-footers to keep the Bucks at bay for the time being.
- When things were going swell in the first half, the Pacers ball movement provided a highlight bucket in the second quarter when Dunleavy drove to the hoop then kicked it out to T.J. Ford in the corner. Ford swung the ball to his left and it kept flying around the arc to the opposite side for a Troy Murphy three. Murph's shot missed, but with the Bucks scrambling out of position to chase the ball, Jeff Foster was left at the rim to easily tip in the miss. The whole play took less than five seconds and all five Pacers had touched the ball before the score.
- With 20 seconds left and the Pacers up four Marquis Daniels snatched a big offensive rebound thanks to Jeff Foster occupying two Bucks. Charlie Villanueva, who was a menace all night, nearly pulled Foster's right arm out of its socket. Foster drew two shots, but his arm appeared dead and looked even worse after his first FTA was short and left. Fortunately, Foster gutted up the second attempt to put the Pacers up five. On the night, the Pacers outrebounded the Bucks 42-31 holding the Bucks to only four offensive rebounds.