The Pacers have lost a number of games, most recently in Portland on Wednesday, where they out played the opponent most of the game only to see the great effort go to waste with a late loss. Against the Clippers on Saturday, the tables were turned as the Pacers were the team that bumbled and were out-played in the first half but dug in, kept grinding and let the Clippers fold down the stretch. Stickin' with it earned the Pacers are much-needed win, 106-105.
The Pacers first half performance was simply horrible. The defense allowed the Clips to get open shots are buckets at the rim whenever they pleased. The Clips were a step quicker to the ball and held an advantage on the glass.
The Clippers came into the game as the worst shooting team in the NBA and finished the first half shooting 58%. They scored 64 points and out-rebounded the Pacers 24-15. Rookie center, DeAndre Jordan had four blocks, all seemed to be on drives by T.J. Ford or Jarrett Jack that ended with a flailing attempt to score over the big rookie.
Oh, and the Clippers were playing without Marcus Camby and Baron Davis. They started three rookies and all three played well, but also played a roll in the Clips fade down the stretch. Still, at the half the Pacers were down 13.
The Pacers played the rare part of a team relying on more seasoned players, sticking with their game through some poor play and making just enough plays down the stretch to win it.
The Pacers took their first lead of the second half with 44 seconds left in the game when Jarrett Jack made a free throw after making a left handed layup and drawing a foul. Those were the last points of the game, so the game winning play ended up being made at the defensive end.
But first, the Pacers had a chance to make it easier with a late possession. T.J. Ford drove into the lane and appeared to have a layup, but instead kicked it out to Brandon Rush, who front-rimmed a 3-ball attempt.
That put the game in Eric Gordon's hands with 5 seconds to go. Gordon took the ball in the lane and drew four Pacers who all stuffed his eventual attempt to draw a foul. A tough ending for EJ because he was brilliant for most of the night. After three quarters, Gordon had 34 points, but strangely only took one other shot in the fourth quarter to go along with his last attempt.
A few other thoughts:
- Gordon made five 3-balls and didn't just make them, he splashed them from all over and well behind the line. They were the EJ specials that don't appear to slow down as they rifle through the net. Release, rotation, splash was meant to describe Gordon's jumper. Beautiful.
- Jarrett Jack's game winning points were part of a 25 point, 7 assist effort. Jack struggled with Gordon much of the night, but came up huge when it mattered.
- Troy Murphy double-doubled with 22 and 17 including some big 3-balls in the second half.
- Plenty of Indiana connections with the Clippers. Zach Randolph played well off the bench, tossing in 20 points with 10 rebounds. He was unstoppable at times. Also, former Pacers, Fred Jones played a ton and chipped in 10 points for the Clips.
- Brandon Rush had a mixed bag with his usual fine defense and sketchy offense. He started out a bit tentative, as Slick said, "playing hot potato" when the ball rotated to him. He did start looking for shots but only made a couple. It was nice to see him play down the stretch in a tight win like this and come up with a couple of big rebounds and a block on a layup attempt by the Clips.
- The Pacers played without Roy Hibbert tonight as the big rook was home with family mourning the passing of Roy's grandfather.