The Indiana Pacers played down the stretch like they were comfortable in a tight game at home. I didn't say they played perfect down the stretch, but the did keep the home crowd cheering through the final buzzer at which point the Pacers secured their sixth straight home win, 100-94 over the Denver Nuggets.
This was a game of good and bad segments with a fast pace at times, good half-court offense at other times and lots of missed shots sprinkled in all night.
The way the game started, it appeared this might be a classic race to 120 points. Both teams combined to make the first seven field goal attempts before two minutes had ticked off the clock.
From there it was a game of mini runs with some real live defense which nullified pace as a determining factor. Loose balls, offensive rebounds and big shots would determine the winner and both teams swapped the momentum throughout all 48 minutes. In fact, I'm sure if the game had five more minutes, the Nuggets would've surged back in the lead, again.
But there wasn't, so they didn't and the Pacers took care of the final surge for the win. Over the final two minutes of the third quarter, the Nuggets went off like flash lightening to turn a tied game into a nine-point lead before ending the quarter up seven.
I'm sure the Nuggets figured they had the Pacers sized up for a knock out, but these Pacers don't like the taste of canvas, so they always get up and come back fighting. Tonight was no different as the Pacers scrapped their way back into the game and eventually the win.
The signature possession of the night for the Pacers came when Troy Murphy rebounded a Carmelo Anthony miss with 3:50 left in the game.
The Pacers were up six and actually used some clock before Jeff Foster missed a long jumper which Marquis Daniels rebounded. With the fresh clock, ran it down again before Jarrett Jack was forced to shoot a long 3-ball which clanked hard. But there was Foster. After untangling himself from Nene, Foster chased down the loose rebound before it went out of bounds and saved it to Troy Murphy. The Pacers took the shot clock down inside five seconds again, before, Quisy finally cashed in the third-chance bucket with a baseline jumper.
Much like the game, the Pacers' execution wasn't pretty, but the effort and nose for the ball, allowed them to eventually get it right, burn 1:15 off the game clock and push the lead to eight.
Ton of random thoughts from this won, so on to the bullets:
- After the game, Lester Conner mentioned that the Nuggets scored 40 fast break points when the Pacers were blown out in Denver earlier this year, so that was a point of emphasis. Tonight the Nuggets only had 11 fast break points.
- Credit Marquis Daniels and Brandon Rush for a solid defensive effort on Carmelo Anthony. He finished with 20 points, but appeared missing in action until heating up late in the third quarter by willing in a few tightly contested jumpers. On the night, Melo was 8-24 from the floor.
- Speaking of Quisy, he also had some big fourth quarter buckets and a key nose-assist, finishing with 19 points. As for the nose-assist, which I realize wasn't really an assist, with a little under six minutes left and the Pacers up two, T.J. Ford fired a pass to a cutting Quisy which hit him square in the nose. The ball bounced of Q's nose and found its way into Troy Murphy's hands. Murph banked home a 17-footer as the shot clock buzzer sounded to put the Pacers up four.
- Offensive rebounds played a big role tonight. The Nuggets finished with 18 extra chances and really took advantage in the first half. The Pacers had 17 O-rebs which proved big as well. Along with the big third chance bucket described above, Foster had another huge offensive rebound with 1:38 left. He immediately passed it out to Jarrett Jack who threw down the dagger three to put the Pacers up nine.
- Jarrett Jack was a monster tonight, like only he can be. The guy played 42 minutes, scored 28 points with 8 assists. Yes, he had three turnovers which are always memorable, but the shooting touch this guy has displayed lately has been wonderful. Oh, by the way, those 28 points were on a mere 14 FGAs. At this point, he's a poor man's Mr. Big Shot because he never shies away from the critical jumper and tonight was no exception.
- Troy Murphy found his shooting stroke again, tonight and produced another big double-double with 22 and 18. He has really stepped up his game with Granger out.
- The rooks played fine tonight, had some great plays, some not so great plays, but the key was, they were in the mix all night. At one point, I thought JOB was going to leave Hibbert in for the stretch run at which point I was hyped to heap praise regardless of the outcome. Didn't last long, though, as Foster came in and made a few game-winning plays.
- Another nice thing about this win is that the Pacers won despite not getting much out of T.J. Ford. Early in the game he squared off with Dahntay Jones after Jones stopped him in his tracks with a shoulder. That may have thrown him off his game, but whatever the reason, Ford was only 2-12 with 4 points and 4 assists.
- For his part, Dahntay Jones had one of the sweeter baseline dunks you'll ever see.
- Bruno had an interesting stat (along with tons of interesting comments) in his Inside the Game LIVE chat tonight. Before their loss tonight, the Nuggets were 31-1 when leading after three quarters including 13-0 on the road.
- Now the Pacers hit the road for three games against teams from the West, beginning in Sacramento on Tuesday night. Danny Granger may suit up and play on this trip if his foot continues to progress as expected.