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Bucks 84, Pacers 81: Pacers Can't Figure Out How To Win

What are we doing?

That was the question Mike Dunleavy was asking no teammate in particular after the Indiana Pacers failed to get an open 3-point look for their preferred shooters with the game on the line, instead leaving the 84-81 win sitting on the table for the Milwaukee Bucks to scoop up and take home.

After Michael Redd was gracious enough to miss two free throws, the Pacers had their last real chance to extend the game with the ball and 18 seconds to play. Dahntay Jones inbounded to Troy Murphyat the top of the key, but Luc Mbah a Moute arrived at the same time forcing Murph to give up the ball to Mike Dunleavy guarded 25 feet from the hoop.

Dunleavy quickly back to T.J. Ford who pump fake Brandon Jennings out of the way and drove in the lane. Instead of taking a pull up for two with 12 seconds left, Ford was forced to toss it back out the Dahntay Jones. Jones was covered and knew better than to force a three. Murph was pinned in the corner and covered up, so Jones tossed it back to Ford behind the arc. After pumping Jennings past him, Ford let go a clean 3-ball with five seconds left.

The missed bounced to Andrew Bogut, leaving Dunleavy wondering what had just happened. After watching the replay, I understand Dunleavy's disgust but he and Murph were checked.

After the game Jim O'Brien didn't critique the play, only saying that when they needed a three, they wanted to go for Murph first and Michael (Dunleavy) second. Of course, those first two options were quickly covered up by the Bucks and after both had to give up the ball, they never touched it again.

Once the play broke down, Ford was left to create something but passed on a two, before being stuck launching a three with five seconds left. Yes, it clanked and much credit goes to the Bucks for defending the Pacers into a 3-ball from a guy who has only made one all season.

Still, Murph and Dunleavy didn't touch it in the final15 seconds thanks to Milwaukee's defense, but it seems like there was enough time to keep moving the ball and trying to free one of them for a shot. The shooters were left stuck as an easy cover with nowhere to move. Once Ford dribbled into the middle, everything broke down, most notably the Pacers chances to steal a win.

T.J. Ford did have one last shot at redemption after Bogut missed both of his free throws. With no timeouts, Ford had to race the ball up the floor and did get off a clean game-tying attempt, but once again, the game ended with a shot bouncing off the rim.

More observations:

  • This game was a real grind with two of the worst shooting teams in the league living up to their reputations. The Bucks shot 42% on the night while the Pacers clanked their way to a 36% (if you're generous and round up) shooting night. Coaches will point to good defense and there was some of that without a doubt, but there were also a lot of good looks that went sideways.
  • The Bucks helped keep the Pacers afloat in the fourth quarter with their poor free throw shooting. On the night Milwaukee was only 9 for 20 from the line, but they also missed six straight freebies in the final 1:02 of regulation, giving the Pacers multiple chances to sneak up and win the game.
  • Aside from the final two shots, which in reality were thrust upon T.J. Ford, the point guard was looking for someone else to play the hero role down the stretch. Inside of two minutes, down four, Ford passed up good looks which seemed to surprise his teammates and jumbled up the possessions. One in particular had Ford in his wheelhouse - wide open just inside the free throw line for a jumper with 1:08 to play. After jumping though, he tried to pass it out to Mike Dunleavy who had continued moving past where Ford threw the ball. Turnover and worse a blown opportunity to close the gap.
  • Mike Dunleavy is officially in his first shooting slump of the season. He struggled to get anything going, making just 2 of 17 shots on the night. That makes him 6 for 27 in the last two games which includes 0 of 9 from 3-land.
  • Brandon Rush and Luther Head both played strong minutes off the bench. Luther continued his positive play making plays at both ends when given a chance. Sure would like to see him play more down the stretch. Rush was used about right tonight, logging 20 minutes off the bench. He was as assertive as I've seen him all year. One play in particular stuck out as he ran baseline to the left corner, he was actually calling for the ball. Then when he received it, turned and knocked down the shot. Nice to see.
  • The Pacer bigs had their moments offensively, especially Roy Hibbert using his low post repertoire to log 16 points. But defensively, everyone struggled trying to slow down Andrew Bogut. The Aussie center nuked the Pacers for a career-high 31 points, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks.
  • Rookie sensation, Brandon Jennings didn't do much of note through three quarters, but flashed a little brilliance in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Most notably, hitting a well-defended 3-pointer and another two late to score five of the Bucks' last seven points. While the Pacers seemed to be looking at each other for a hero to make a shot, Jennings didn't flinch at the opportunity to step up at winning time.
  • Tyler Hansbrough had another strong outing with 11 points, 5 rebounds and a couple blocks. It remains incredible to see how many opponents end up on the ground when in the vicinity of Hansbrough. He earned some late-game burn and actually scored the Pacers' final two field goals, one on a sweet spin move past Bogut that resulted in a nice little four-footer for two.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute was king of the little things, giving the Bucks a nice boost late in the game. Scott Skiles went with the defensive-minded Mbah a Moute when the game appeared set to be a grind all the way through. The Bucks' forward not only defended the heck out of Troy Murphy, he also tracked down some critical loose balls to keep possessions alive for Milwaukee at winning time.
  • Along with the poor shooting, the Pacers donated 18 turnovers on the night. Troy Murphy had seven donations on his own, not to mention how a really solid second quarter could've been fantastic if not for too many careless possessions.
  • The Pacers have to get up off the mat to take on the Celtics in Boston tomorrow night. I myself will be heading out west for a week, so posting may be lighter than normal, although Sean will fill in the gaps when he can. Let me encourage you to use the FanPosts to offer more thorough thoughts on the games or general issues of the day with the Pacers. I'd love to promote some of the varied opinions around here to the front page. Just keep it clean. I know, not always easy...