After clunking and clanking their way to a 34-point first half, the Pacers used the third quarter to work their way back into the game and then just exploded for 31 points in the deciding fourth to cruise by the Clippers.
There were a lot of moving parts that had to come together to eventually create the winning combination. Leading scorer, Danny Granger was a late scratch and remains day-to-day after an MRI revealed the Pacers resident all-star has a sprained MCL in his left knee. But Granger's absence was no excuse for the ugly first half that saw both teams shoot in the low 30% from the floor.
In fact, the Pacers only scored 34-points in the first half, ironically matching the pitiful second-half point total in the last two home losses to the Knicks and Cavaliers. Fortunately the Clippers weren't much better and the Pacers only trailed by nine at the break. The game continued to creep along in the third quarter, but the Pacers cut the lead to four heading into the fourth.
At winning time, though, the Pacers answered big time, winning the fourth 31-14 in a game that became quite intense and a little chippy. At one point Baron Davis and T.J. Ford had a silly squabble of wills with neither wanting to flinch, but it added some juice to the game and although it woke up Baron Davis at the offensive end, it also engaged Ford at both ends as he included his teammates who put forth a great team effort to close out the game. I'm convinced Davis was initially upset because Ford was actually giving him some fits with his defense.
Ford was just one of several players who wiped away a poor early effort to finish strong and find a way to win. Whether it was foul trouble or poor shooting, nearly every Pacers was struggling. But they used a strong defensive effort to stay in touch until the offense came around. In fact, the defense created some easy offensive chances. For instance, Roy Hibbert rotated over to block a Craig Smith layup early in the fourth. The block slammed off the backboard, fueling a layup by Ford at the other end and pushing the lead to four points. The Pacers would never trail again.
More on the major contributions after the jump.
- Dahntay Jones was a monster in the fourth quarter and his game highlights how this one went from start to finish. Dahntay had zero points and three fouls in the first half. He forced a couple of shots but just couldn't make a jumper to save his life. He even missed a couple of free throws. But he kept grinding in the second half and drew a couple of fouls on drives to the rim. The made free throws helped his rhythm and before long he was scoring from all over the court, finishing with 18 points in the second half. He even knocked down a classic Quisy three where you beg him not to shoot and then watch the ball go in. Jones also helped slow down Baron Davis after the T.J tango re-engaged the Clippers' point guard.
- Luther Head was one player who deserves credit for playing well in both the first and second half. For a three minute stretch early in the second quarter, Luther scored eight straight points which kept the Pacers in the game. He also had a couple of assists later in the quarter including a sweet leave for Roy Hibbert as he rolled to the hoop for an easy bucket. In the second half, Luther continued his solid play with six more points to finish with 14. At one point, I thought JOB was going to ride Luther home, but eventually the foul-strapped Brandon Rush returned to the court.
- Troy Murphy also weathered three fouls in the first half while not shooting it particularly well. He did play much better defense, though and rebounded pretty well, although Marcus Camby was a nightmare for everyone. In fact, after Camby closed the third with a 3-pointer (seriously) he had 15 points and 20 rebounds. But in the fourth, Camby could only muster up one rebound and zero points. Meanwhile, Murph continued to scrap on the glass, even keeping a couple of possessions alive on the offensive glass, and then found his stroke when it mattered most. Murph's two three pointers in the last five minutes (set up nicely by T.J. Ford) helped suck the life out of the Clippers. The final trey put the Pacers up nine and was the deciding dagger. Murph finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
- T.J. Ford came out of nowhere to produce big time down the stretch in this one. Until the fourth, it was the same old, same old with Ford. Not exactly spilling his guts at either end and offering up a couple of mind numbing turnovers. But tonight when it mattered, Ford stood up to Baron Davis and wasn't going down without a fight. While he made a few key shots and finished a couple of nice drives at the hoop, his assists were the difference in the fourth. Ford had three key dimes in the final five minutes that all set up made three-pointers and buried the Clippers.
- Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush were a bit up and down as they both tried to play through foul trouble. Hibbert only ended up playing 25 minutes and aside from a couple of nice pick 'n roll finishes couldn't make a shot. Hibbert did hold his own defensively though and scrapping with Chris Kaman and helping to hold the Clippers leading scorer to 10 points. Hibbert finished with 3 blocks.
- Rush finished the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Like Luther helped bolster what little offense the Pacers had in the first half with a couple of three-pointers. He struggled down the stretch, missing two free throws that were a result of two possession-saving offensive rebounds by Murphy and Jeff Foster. Fortunately, it didn't come back to bite the Pacers. Rush also felt the wrath of T.J. Ford after the two weren't on the same page during a critical late possession. Dahntay Jones mediated with an arm around each as they made their way to the bench for a timeout.
- Jeff Foster and Tyler Hansbrough did a lot of dirty work during their time on the court. They actually played some together for the second night in a row. As you can imagine, the combo keeps things lively on the court. At the time in the third quarter, the Pacers needed all of the juice they could get and they provided a little boost.
- When the game started, I was wondering which players might step up to fill the void with Granger sidelined. As it turned out, nearly everyone did a little something at least a little better than they have been to combine to turn this ugly game and potential fifth-straight loss into a sweet victory. Now the turkey will taste a little better tomorrow.