Turnovers marred a solid effort by the Pacers, forcing them to expend a lot of energy hanging with the Utah Jazz through three quarters. By they time the donations slowed down, the Jazz kicked into closing gear and put away the Pacers for good, 112-100.
No, you can't expect to beat a red-hot Jazz team. But, with so many wasted opportunities earlier in the year, this was a home game the Pacers needed to keep their playoff hopes (belief) alive. The dour post-game mood of Jim O'Brien and the locker room indicated a big hit to those playoff aspirations. I won't say there was a sense of resignation because this team isn't built that way and they'll keep clawing until the math tells them their eliminated. Still, the thought was hanging in the air.
As for how that thought was conjured up, let me take you back to the fourth quarter with 8:16 left to play. The Pacers had 20 turnovers in the book (14 in the first half!), yet the game was tied at 88. From that point on, the game flows went in opposite directions, as Utah played like a band of cold-blooded assassins, trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves as they take out their mark and move to the next
Here are the Jazz possessions from 8:16 until the game was sealed with two minutes to go.
- Paul Millsap made jumper
- Deron Williams missed jumper
- Andrei Kirlenko 3-ball
- Paul Millsap layup (Kirlenko steals the inbounds and Boozer charges)
- Andrei Kirlenko layup
- Mehmet Okur bank shot and 1 (made free throw)
- Mehmet Okur made two free throws
- Kyle Korver 3-ball (plus a technical free throw after a timeout)
- Paul Millsap made two free throws
- Deron Williams made two free throws
The Jazz converted on 9 of 10 possessions with the game in the balance which pushed the Jazz lead to double-digits and the game out of reach for the Pacers. The Pacers didn't have enough in the tank to make another run and the Jazz gathered their belongings (most valuable among them, the W) and quietly left town.
A few more random thoughts:
- The Pacers were left frustrated by a Jazz defense that was active and created problems for the Pacers all night. Jarrett Jack eventually picked up a technical after it was apparent the refs weren't interested in bailing the Pacers out if they were going to be loose with the ball. The Jazz ended up with 16 steals.
- Those steals accounted for several of the Pacers 22 turnovers. But tough defense isn't the only reason for the slop. Jarrett Jack and T.J. Ford combined for 11 of those 22 turnovers (Jazz had 10 total), many coming with the familiar forcing of the ball into traffic or jumping in the air with no apparent plan for what to do with the ball.
- Troy Murphy lit up the Fieldhouse in the first half, knocking down seven 3-balls which had the joint rocking and brough the Pacers back from an early double-digit deficit. The Jazz adjusted at the half and Murph didn't get a sniff the rest of the game. As JOB put it, the Jazz were under Murph's chin after the half and were going to force someone else on the Pacers to beat them.
- Jarrett Jack had five turnovers and no points at the half, but came out on fire in the second half. He scored 15 of his 21 points in the third quarter and picked up the offense where Murph left it in the first half. Unfortunately, he ran out of gas and couldn't find anyone else to ride along with him.
- Roy Hibbert played 22 minutes and was a factor before fouling out. Hibbert finished with 12 points and a couple of nice hooks along with a sweet finish off a pick and roll with Jack.
- Murphy finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Murph needed three rebounds to set the single-season franchise records for rebounds. He will now push that record to new heights with 16 games left to add to the total.