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Pacers 94, Hornets 93: Indiana Wins on Mike Dunleavy Tip-In

Knowing the history of this series and the two buzzer beaters the Hornets had killed the Pacers on in recent games, it became increasingly concerning as the game took a back and forth nature in the fourth quarter despite the Pacers leading most of the way. Offensive rebounds were an enemy of the Pacers once again, and as David West pulled down the team’s 18th and found himself at the free throw line to complete a three point play, every Pacers fan could feel the inevitable heartbreak linger.

West’s free throw was good, and put the Hornets up two points with 30 seconds left. Darren Collison had led the way offensively, but left the game with an ankle tweak, leaving Indiana without their most effective threat. On the next trip down the floor, the Pacers worked the ball inside, and then kicked out to Danny Granger. The Hornets defenders were quick to close out on Granger, and he slipped it to his left, straight to James Posey, who coolly and calmly hit his fifth three pointer of the night to put the Pacers back up one with 16 seconds on the clock.

The relief felt was short lived. It was a big play, but the Pacers had to make a stop to avoid suffering another heartbreaking defeat the hand of New Orleans. Chris Paul brought the ball forward, and when Jeff Foster came to help double team, Paul gave it to a wide open West, who hit his jumper to put New Orleans back up one. It sure felt like fate that the team would suffer another close loss to the Hornets, but there was still 3.9 seconds left, and it was Indiana who had the chance to deliver the dagger.

The ball was inbounded to Granger, who dribbled forward, and found a good look. The shot fell right into the basket, but spun around the rim and popped out. Time stopped. This couldn’t be how Indiana lost this game. All night, shots from both sides were going in and out, but surely the Pacers wouldn’t lose on one of them.

Suddenly, Mike Dunleavy tipped the ball back towards the basket. Time was expiring as the ball, seemingly undecided on who it would reward, sat on the rim. Fate finally smiled upon Indiana as the ball simply rolled into the basket. Just like that, the Pacers walked away with the win. They won a close game, one they had led by more than ten multiple times, one they were killed on the offensive glass, got minimal contribution from Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush.

But the veterans pulled through. James Posey and Jeff Foster made game changing plays all night that helped will the team to victory, one fellow vet Mike Dunleavy helped punch home.

After the jump, more on the team’s perfect holiday gift to the fans:

  • If any Pacer deserves an apology after tonight, it’s Jeff Foster. All year, it’s been almost assumed by fans that he simply "doesn’t have it" anymore. Even though Foster looked the best he’s looked in two years this year, fans were still well over Jeff’s antics. Pave the way for the young guys? Not when Jeff Foster can still out Jeff everyone in the league. Foster ended the night with 7 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks, including some big offensive rebounds. Dunleavy gets the glory, but Foster was instrumental in the victory tonight.
  • Danny Granger led the team tonight with 27 points and 6 rebounds. Granger made 4 three pointers and went to the line eight times and was on it all night, helping to lift Roy Hibbert’s terrible, woeful, let’s-forget-this-ever-happened night. Hibbert’s kryptonite is officially Emeka Okafor. Okafor held Hibbert in check all night. For as bad a night as the big fella had, his lone two points helped put the Pacers up six in the fourth quarter. He kept working, and bless him for that. But it’s a team game, and Hibbert was helped by his teammates. When the time comes he’ll need to carry the weight, he can do that.
  • James Posey didn’t just hit five three pointers tonight. He timed them perfectly. His first came with time expiring in the first half. He hit his next two at opportune times as the Hornets were mounting their comeback in the third quarter. His fourth got the Pacers back in front early in the fourth, and his final gave Indiana the chance to finish the game on the tip in. Posey is another guy who seems to be overlooked at times by fans asking for his minutes to drop. But when he’s on, he’s unlike anything this team can put out there. He’s the reason this team is in a better position now than last year, even if he’s cost some games this season as well.
  • Darren Collison took pride in showing up against his former teammates tonight, going 8-11 from the floor for 18 points. Collison outplayed his mentor Chris Paul all night, being a helping hand in forcing Paul into six turnovers and holding him to just four assists, monster achievements against the best PG in the game. T.J. Ford offered a nice alternative and helped keep Collison’s pace going when he wasn’t on the floor (even when he was).
  • Tyler Hansbrough was the first big off the bench tonight, and committed three fouls in 9 minutes of action. Josh McRoberts was available, but was held to the bench as Hansbrough attempted to make his mark. He didn’t get a lot of opportunities to rack up numbers, but held his own as Foster’s relief tonight.
  • The Pacers lost the turnover battle, free throw battle, and were wiped clean on the glass, but were able to get the win tonight on 28 fast break points and 11 three pointers. The Pacers were lethal in the fast break. New Orleans had no answer for Collison’s blistering speed, and paid dearly for the transition offense Indiana displayed.
  • On the Hornets side of the ball, former Pacer favorite Jarrett Jack went 3-8 from the field, a great night for him given his recent struggles, including a 4-point play as he entered the game that gave New Orleans life to make one of their many comebacks tonight. The Hornets played with heavy hearts as well, as guard Willie Green suffered the loss of his sister and cousin following last night’s game in Detroit. They were remembered tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse in a moment of silence.

The Pacers enter their Christmas break with a thrilling victory. The team improves to 13-14, and will be able to savor it for the next six days. The Pacers will next take the floor on Sunday as they host Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and the Memphis Grizzlies.