It was the starting lineup that seemed like the obvious choice -- a roll call featuring Dahntay Jones and Roy Hibbert. In the end, however, it didn't make a difference on the final scoreboard.
A listless performance from T.J. Ford, some poor defense from the starting frontcourt of Troy Murphy and Hibbert and a turnover-prone second half (14) were nearly negated by some very energized and surprising bench play, but it wasn't enough as the Pacers dropped a 110-105 loss outing to the Kings on Thursday. The Pacers have now lost seven of their last eight.
The starters helped put the team in a hole in the first and third quarters. Ford, Murphy and Hibbert, particularly, didn't have the best games of their careers. Ford may as well have been in Utah already. The starting PG had no points, one assist and two turnovers in a very forgettable 20 minutes of play. Luckily, the second unit, led by a fiesty and spirited group consisting of Earl Watson, Mike Dunleavy, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster, kept the Pacers in the game until the very end.
Watson and Foster's determination late, along with Danny Granger's offense, gave the Pacers a fighting chance in the final minute of the game as the Pacers erased a seven-point third quarter deficit. Indiana cut the Kings' lead to 108-105 with 16 seconds remaining, but it was too late. More on that final minute after the jump.
Coach Jim O'Brien attempted to sport only a nine-man playing rotation Thursday. That left Brandon Rush at the end of the bench until midway through the fourth (he played only because Mike Dunleavy had to sit after reaching his 20-minute max) after being relieved from his starting spot for Jones.
Overall, the Pacers at least hung tough in this one and played up until the final buzzer to make it interesting. They were never out of it and there were some great performances from players such as Granger, Watson and Foster, and the Pacers even outrebounded the Kings 49-39...22-10 on offensive boards, yet, still lost! Had Dunleavy been allowed to keep playing with six minutes to go and right when the Pacers started making a run, it could have been even more interesting. But, alas, wishing don't make it happen folks. The Kings shot 51 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the arc, and executed the pick and roll to decimate the Pacers defense.
The Pacers have lost three straight. More after the jump.
- Danny Granger and Dahntay Jones again proved that they work well together, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Between Granger's outside shooting and Jones' mid-range jumpers, the two carried what amounted to the Pacers' offense for most of the game. Granger finished with 33 points (his fifth 30-point game of the season) on 10-of-24 shooting, while Jones dropped 16 points.
- Mike Dunleavy's "Minute Watch" caught up to him unexpectedly with more than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Dunleavy reached his 20-minute limit early and was sent to the bench right as the Pacers began pulling within striking distance of the Kings. Dunleavy contributed six points in 20 minutes. His absence allowed Brandon Rush to avoid the DNP-CD.
- Speaking of Rush, he came in for some brief minutes at the end of the game and on an important possession that could pull the Pacers within five points late, Rush passed up a wide-open 3-pointer for...well, I'll let Jared Wade of Eight Points, Nine Seconds do the commentary from his Twitter page: "So Brandon Rush forgoes a nice, in-rhythm three in transition for a pump-fake, dribble left, pull-up 22-foot two-pointer 2 secs later?"
- The Pacers' defense continues to struggle with the pick-and-roll and it continues to allow opposing playmakers to have field days against the blue and gold. Rookie Tyreke Evans exploded for 16 points in the first quarter (finished with 26), while Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes thrived on the generosity of the Pacers spacing issues by going for 22 and 21, respectively.
- Granger attempted to put on the Batman mask during the final minute for a near-superhero comeback. A Granger 3-pointer pulled the team within five points with 1:13 left in the game. After getting the ball back on a jump ball, Jones casually threw the ball away on the inbounds pass with 50 seconds left. Granger struck another crazy 3-pointer with 36 seconds on the clock to pull Indiana 107-103. After an Evans made free throw, Granger bricked a three, but was fouled on a second attempt behind the line. Unfortunately, the star clanked the first free throw and made the second two, pulling the blue and gold within a 108-105 score with 16 seconds remaining. Jones missed a 3-ball on the next possession to effectively end the Pacers attempted comeback.
- T.J. Ford. Yuck.
- Watson played really well in place of the point guard mentioned in the previous bullet point. The backup was all over the court, dishing and hitting the open man. Playing along with Dunleavy really opened up the offense for the Pacers. He finished with 15 points.