0.5 seconds to heartache.
Crunch-time, game-on-the-line execution was the difference between winning and losing. When it mattered most, the Indiana Pacers came up short, while the Milwaukee Bucks flawlessly executed a lob pass and tip by Andrew Bogut, then joyfully ran off the Bradley Center court with a 97-95 win.
There were plenty of missed opportunities and head-scratching plays to ponder through the first 47 minutes of this game, but let's cut to the chase. The game was up for grabs with a W waiting for the team that made the play to take it in the final 30 seconds.
Danny Granger tied the game with a nice 17-foot jumper with 33 seconds remaining. Granger had a nice mid-range game going late and this contested shot gave the Pacers a burst of energy with enough time on the clock to guarantee another possession.
After getting the stop they needed, the Pacers had the ball with a 24 seconds left in the game which meant a last shot opportunity for the win. The execution of the game-winning attempt was nearly perfect. Granger was freed up, rolling off a Hibbert pick and had the ball around the free throw line, in that mid-range zone where he was doing work.
Luc Mbah a Moute stayed with Granger quite well but Granger had a half-step on him. Andrew Bogut stepped in to double Danny and deny the pull up shot. With Brandon Jennings tripling the effort from behind, Granger found the open man. Roy Hibbert was set up in one of his favorite spots, a foot above the free throw line on the right side of the lane. Granger put the ball on Hibbert's shooting hand, cocked and ready to fire with three seconds to go.
Hibbert treated the ball like a hot potato, rushing his release leaving the shot wide right to barely graze the rim. Big Roy's first shot at hero status quickly turned to a learning experience. With 0.5 seconds left, it seemed he'd have a shot at redemption in overtime.
Instead the Bucks executed a perfect out-of-bounds play that Jim O'Brien and the Pacers knew was coming but couldn't stop. Luc Mbah a Moute threw an absolutely perfect lob pass from the left side of the court just over the rim where Andrew Bogut gently re-directed the ball to tip in the game winner.
Jeff Foster had a body on Bogut after fighting through a screen but wasn't able to jump up. As Foster tried to move Bogut off the court, the Aussie's finger tips stayed in play with ease and in that blink of an eye, the Pacers were left holding another frustrating loss.
After the jump, a few more thoughts and observations.
- Plenty of second-guessing available for this one. JOB mentioned after the game he was expecting that lob play, but bringing in a cold Jeff Foster instead of a more athletic Josh McRoberts is the first question for the hindsight olympics. Foster played it pretty well, but again, Mbah a Moute's pass was insane and Bogut timed his part perfectly as well. McRoberts may have been a step late on the pick or with the way this game was going, might've been called for a foul if he did go up with Bogut. On the replay, it looks like even if Foster did try to jump, he would've been a bit late. Not sure even a foul would've changed it since the pass was so nice it didn't take much of a tip. Ugh.
- The Pacers dumped plenty of opportunities along the way as they struggled to play at a winning level all night. Credit the team for a much improved second half and giving themselves a chance to win when it appeared in the first half that they were just going to have a throw-away night.
- Somewhere Moses Malone had to be smiling over the Bucks' offensive rebounding in the first half and really, for a stretch of the first quarter, where they utilized the tipped ball quite effectively, not for buckets but to save possessions. They finished the game with 19 offensive rebounds but 15 of those were in the first half. 15! But in Moses fashion, a chunk of those extra chances were own tipped misses.
- The Bucks shots 36% from the floor and only scored 41 second-half points, but the Pacers couldn't take advantage. There were whistles galore, though, with 50 fouls keeping the action nice and ugly. The Pacers weren't great, but did shoot over 43% on the night. That's why there are four factors to winning, though. With the turnovers about even, the Bucks made 10 more free throws and crushed the Pacers 19-5 on the offensive glass.
- It was a grind for the Pacers to score at times. Danny Granger finished with 26 points, but the second unit had to work to find buckets. Brandon Rush came up empty offensively most of the night and shrunk even more down the stretch. After the Bucks tied the game with a minute to go, Rush threw a horrible pass out on the perimeter for a turnover. It appeared he wanted nothing to do with the ball in his hands at that time.
- Overall, the team was just out of sync. After several stops in the fourth quarter with a chance to take control of a tight game, they just couldn't get an easy bucket. One possession in particular symbolized the night's effort. Josh McRoberts took the ball up court and maintained his dribble before taking it in the lane and kicking it out to an open Mike Dunleavy in the corner for a three. With a defender running at him, Dunleavy shot in what appeared to be his normal rhythm, except the shot hit the side of the backboard.
- I was actually getting excited down the stretch thinking the Pacers were heading toward the most beautiful of ugly wins. Shaking off a really bad half to find a way to get it done on the road. Then just like that, nothing but a painful loss.