The Indiana Pacers followed a familiar recipe to serve up a 99-94 road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Pacers have lost in a number of ways this season, but the way the loss unfolded tonight from start to finish was similar to many incurred last year and earlier this season. In hindsight, it's easy to see that all of the ingredients were in the pantry to cook up this frustrating loss. First, there was a dire need for a W which is actually stacked in the garage in Costco-style bulk packaging.
Next, throw in a couple of hobbled players, unable to contribute. Marquis Daniels was not available and Jeff Foster gave it a go but wasn't able to offer much. Plus, Danny Granger faded in the second half along with any lift in his legs.
Don't forget a couple of handfuls of turnovers, which always give the perfect sour taste to this type of loss. Admittedly, turnovers haven't been a big problem of late, but tonight they resurfaced early and were a big difference in the outcome. On the stat sheet, the Pacers had 16 turnovers to Philly's 13, but Philly enjoyed a 15-point advantage in the points scored off those turnovers. That's what happens with the jump turnover favored by Jarrett Jack and T.J. Ford. Those balls are usually intercepted and turned into easy buckets at the other end.
Next up, is the classic third quarter malaise. The Pacers' 13-point third quarter in Philly fits just right. As is usually the case, a hole is dug in the third after fighting their way back into the game in the first half. The Pacers turned a ten point first quarter deficit into a nine point second half lead before Philly surged to cut the lead to two at the half. Momentum stayed with the Sixers in the third quarter and the Pacers spent the rest of the game trying to get it back.
For the finishing touches, there has to be a role player on the opposition who goes off for season-high scoring game. Step on up, Mr. Willie Green. Green started out hot and finished strong to lead the Sixers in scoring with 23 points.
One more thing this type of loss usually includes is a splash of positive news. Nothing to kill the bite of the loss, but certainly enough to merit a few bullets:
- Turnovers and poor play had T.J. Ford and Stephen Graham on the bench most of the second half. The silver lining in the poor play of Graham was that Brandon Rush was able to play ten minutes and may have earned some future minutes in the process. Rush played with plenty of confidence to begin the fourth quarter when he dialed in a 3-ball, assisted on a Troy Murphy bucket and then made a strong individual move, ending with a little, spinning baseline jumper. Rush finished with 5 points and 3 rebounds, taking advantage of the opportunity given him.
- Roy Hibbert also saw extended action with Foster on the bench. He had his moments, both good and bad, but he certainly didn't hold the Pacers back while he was on the floor. Hibbert entered the game in the second quarter with the Pacers down ten. By the time he went back to the bench five minutes later, the Pacers were up by eight (and were up nine at one point). Roy finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds and a couple of blocks in 12 minutes.
- Travis Diener had a strong outing off the bench, as well. His play at both ends kept T.J. Ford out of the action. Diener didn't shoot it well, but he ran the team well, finishing with six assists. He was also on the court when the team played their best defense.
- After Philly came out knocking down shots at will, it looked like one of those defenseless nights. But the Pacers tightened things up over the final three quarters. Hibbert sure is a nice big body to have in the middle. The 19-point turnaround in the second quarter happened so quickly thanks to the defensive effort of the full team on the floor, which included Hibbert, Diener, Dunleavy (Murph subbed for Dun halfway through), Granger and Jack.
- Danny Granger also fueled the second quarter run with nine points. The knee looked fine early in the game, but after the burst of activity and then cooling down at the half, the knee kept Danny hobbled the rest of the way. He gave it what he had and finished playing 35 minutes. At this point, I'll be surprised if Danny is able to help much against Orlando on the back-to-back.
- One more not-so-positive point, with the Pacers down four and about 1:45 left in the game, Jim O'Brien picked up a technical foul after a no call whenTravis Diener was nearly knocked into the stands on a moving screen by Samuel Dalembert. Diener will carry the scars of that play for a few days. I just couldn't believe with the time and score game situation that the ref would call the T after swallowing his whistle on an obviously egregious foul.