Maybe the game time on the Indiana Pacers schedule was wrong. Maybe a Toronto Raptors employee changed it from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. as a joke. Maybe the team thought that crossing borders meant they were entering a different zone.
Whatever the reason, the Pacers were not ready to play in the first half in Toronto Tuesday night. After digging a 21-point hole at halftime through terrible shooting and loosely-defined defense, the blue and gold, behind the charge of Danny Granger and T.J. Ford, mounted a spirited comeback that could not unfortunately undue the team's play in the first two stanzas. Toronto's timely daggers in the final five minutes kept Indiana at bay, resulting in a 123-112 loss that dropped the Pacers to a 5-7 record.
For the fourth straight game, all losses, the blue and gold's defensive presence was left in the hotel room. Indiana allowed Toronto to get off to a blistering start as their inside-outside penetration contributed to many of the 74 first-half points.
Unlike the previous disaster in Charlotte where Indiana never showed up to play, the Pacers at least felt inclined to make this game interesting with a bulldozing run in the third quarter as the Pacers cut the gap to eight, 100-92, to begin the fourth. Starter Troy Murphy drained two straight treys from downtown to make it 113-106 with 6:52 left in the game. But a four-point possession courtesy made by a Chris Bosh made and missed free throw, followed by a Jarrett Jack 3-ball on the rebound, put the game out of reach.
The game was another disappointing finish for Granger who put the burden on his shoulders during the second half to keep the Pacers within striking distance. The All-Star had a horrendous first half (3-for-12 shooting, three fouls) before finally entering "this game's on me" mode and unleashing 13 of his season-high 36 points in the third. Give Granger credit for not sulking on the bench and keeping his frustration internal. He took it out on the Raptors during that third quarter as he strutted around the court with a vengeance that's been non-existent for a week or two. He was driving, hitting from the outside and kicking it from mid-range. But, again, it was all too late.
The Pacers don't have time to sulk about this one as they turnaround to play the Clips at home on Wednesday. Reminder to all players: Game time is set for 7 p.m.
- Former Pacers players just love playing against the blue and gold. Whether it's Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson or Jermaine O'Neal, former players always put up career nights when Indiana comes to town. Tonight was no exception. Jarrett Jack and Rasho Nesterovic, who both played for the Pacers last season, put up season high's tonight to combine for 30 points.
- Rookie Tyler Hansbrough recovered after a couple of tough scoring outings by making 4-of-6 shots for 10 points and four rebounds. Hansbrough also had only one turnover, a TO that occured when his teammates left him in a one-on-one situation on the left side with Bosh. That's something that's happened several times in the past week where Hansbrough is expected to do something by his lonesome. He's just not ready for that yet. It resulted in a carry tonight.
- Coach Jim O'Brien jumbled up the starting lineups tonight to match up better defensively with Toronto by inserting Jeff Foster for Roy Hibbert and Troy Murphy for Dahntay Jones. Although the defense continued to struggle, the Pacers bench did not keep pace in the early stages of either the 2nd or 4th quarters. The Pacers scored 70 combined points in the 1st and 3rd quarters, compared to 42 in the 2nd and 4th combined.
- Although Jones did provide somewhat of a spark off the bench in the second half, I felt like the team was sorely missing his presence in the first half. It's hard for me to believe that starting Brandon Rush over Jones is the right idea. Jones and Granger seem to feed off each other on offense and defense, and keeping that pair away from each to start the game just did not work out well. I would love to see Jones get the starting nod again tomorrow against the Clippers.
- Coming off of the bench, Hibbert only totaled 12 minutes, yet still put in eight points. Hibbert had several good moments early in the game when running through the lane and receiving lob passes over the small defenders for two easy buckets. But it wasn't enough to keep him on the floor.
- Foster ended up with only four points and five fouls. By inserting Foster into the lineup, he was supposed to help alleviate the problem of defending the pick-and-roll, but Jose Caulderon ran pick-and-roll's with Bosh several times in the first quarter with much success.
- Granger resorted to launching shots from the outside of the 3-point line tonight, but in an anomaly for this season, they actually went in. Granger tied a career-high for seven 3-pointers.
- The Associated Press reported after the game that O'Brien said Mike Dunleavy could be ready to return "within days."