The Indiana Pacers rose from the dead once again.
After falling behind by 24 points midway through the second quarter, the Pacers hung on and then turned it on, outscoring the high-powered Suns 70-46 in the second half to secure another home win, 122-114.
Jim O'Brien spent the first half trying out various playing rotations, before falling back on his faithful small lineup in the second half. Mike Dunleavy not only started after the break, but jump-started the comeback, scoring the Pacers first 11 points helping to pull the game within reach.
While Dunleavy kept chugging away, his teammates joined the fray and before long Danny Granger was on fire, Roy Hibbert was going toe-to-toe with Amar'e Stoudemire and Dahntay Jones was making plays all over the court.
If Larry Bird explained this summer what he hoped this team could play like once healthy, there's no doubt the second half performance would match the description.
And as decisive as the second-half performance was, it could've been even worse had Steve Nash not come up with a heroic effort to keep the Suns in the game until the very end. In the first quarter, Nash took a gash to the face requiring 7 stitches but flat out willed the Suns to remain in the game with some beautiful basketball in the fourth quarter.
But even a super-human effort from Nash wasn't enough to derail this Pacers' comeback, the second win in a row and fourth straight home win.
More thoughts on the win:
- Jim O'Brien had to set a record in the game for the number of unique player combinations in one game. By unique, I mean fives that have never played together in live NBA action prior to tonight. I lost track midway through the second quarter, but it all started with a late change before the game as JOB inserted Tyler Hansbrough into the starting lineup for Roy Hibbert.
- Mike Dunleavy scored 23 of his season-high 30 points in the second half making 7 of 8 shots after the break including 4 3-pointers. The successful small lineup really hums with Dunleavy running around and finding cracks in the opponent's defense.
- Danny Granger found his stroke at winning time, scoring 20 points of his own in the second half. On the night, Granger finished with an efficient 33 points on 22 shots, making 5 of 9 3-balls. He also made his presence felt at the defensive end again. He had 8 rebounds but one that didn't count was critical to sealing this win. After just draining a 3-ball to put the Pacers up four, Granger went up for a huge rebound at the defensive end with 2:41 left in the game. Jared Dudley had inside position, but Granger fought his way into a jump ball. After a timeout, the Suns grabbed the tip but missed a jumper. Much better than a layup or free throws for Dudley. Those type of plays are just as important as the big offensive buckets.
- Dahntay Jones and Roy Hibbert both deserve credit for rebounding from limited playing time to make a huge impact. After the game, JOB singled out Dahntay first in his press conference, lauding him for coming ready after not playing in the last game. Jones scored 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds but also provided plenty of heart. One play in particular stood out in the hustle area. After the Suns had re-taken the lead with around 8 minutes left in the game, Granger and Dahntay simply wouldn't let Channing Frye secure a rebound off a Hibbert miss. The two scrapped away until the ball eventually went off of Frye's leg. Dahntay then cashed in the saved possession by hitting a little runner and drawing a foul. After making the free throw to complete the 3-point play, the Pacers were back in front by one point.
- Hibbert was the 11th man off the bench tonight, drawing a huge ovation from the crowd when he rose and ran to the scorer's table. And he didn't disappoint. Hibbert played plenty of minutes on Amar'e and while he eventually fouled out, Stoudemire struggled to keep up with Roy as well. Hibbert finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds. He also had a couple of blocks and several altered shots. Hopefully Jim O'Brien will continue to give Hibbert a chance to establish his game even with a small lineup on the floor.
- Earl Watson is easy to overlook in this one thanks to the big games from some of his teammates, but his impact was equally strong. Rookie A.J. Price wasn't doing anything special tonight, so Watson played extended minutes and chipped in 14 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds in 34 minutes.
- Noted Pacer-killer, Amar'e Stoudemire had trouble getting on track all night offering up just 21 points and 5 rebounds which is mild when compared to the 91 points he put up in his last two trips to the Fieldhouse.