It doesn't matter who the opponent is anymore, the Indiana Pacers have their number.
With the season nearly over with only two games remaining, the blue and gold are one of the NBA's hottest teams as they toppled the league's best team (Cavaliers) on Friday and turned right around and staged a throttling comeback to knock off basketball's lousiest franchise (Nets) on Saturday with a 115-102 win at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Not that any of this means anything. For instance, the Cavs sat LeBron James and rested in every facet of the game. But the Pacers have now won 10 of their past 12 games, rolling through playoff-bound teams and dominating teams we all thought they should have been beating early on this season. On Saturday, the Pacers even staged a huge second-half to thwart a Nets team that had actually won five of its last nine games, an incredible feat for a team that now holds a 12-68 record.
Again, not that it means anything, but the Pacers showed some steadfast heart and effort on the tail end of a back-to-back Saturday. After playing sheepish in the first half and allowing New Jersey to shoot better than 65 percent from the field, Indiana finally clamped down on defense and fell behind a scoring barrage from Troy Murphy to regain control of a fast-paced game. Yeah, that's not a lie. Again, it doesn't mean anything, but it's not often that Murphy scores 14 points in one quarter (the third stanza) to propel the Pacers to a 32-19 third-quarter advantage, effectively erasing their 12-point first half deficit.
"We didn't play well defensively the entire game," said Murphy, who finished with 25 points. "We hit our shots in the third quarter, and that was the difference. We are spacing the floor and hitting key shots much better now. That wasn't happening early in the year and resulted in some losses for us. If you space the court and you don't hit shots, it really doesn't work."
For more on this game, check out the jump.
- The three-point shot was make or break for the Pacers tonight. After starting the game by missing 11 of their first 12 attempts, the blue and gold made eight of their final 12. Danny Granger had a great shooting night from 2-point land, but his 3's were far from falling (2-of-8 from beyond-the-arc). He still finished with 22 points.
- Big matchup in the post tonight between Nets center Brook Lopez and Pacers big man Roy Hibbert. Both players had their way in the posts as Lopez drop-stepped circles around Hibby early in the game and Roy found open spots in the paint for his hooks and lay-ups on the other end. Lopez finished with 20 points, but Hibbert had a much more efficient 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting. This should be a great post matchup for the next few years. Keep an eye on it.
- After the Pacers were down nine to the hot-shooting Nets at the end of the first, Dahntay Jones provided the much needed spark off the bench. Jones scored 13 of his 18 points in the second quarter and finally brought some defense into the game that hadn't seen any of it. He did a nice job of getting into the lane and drawing contact to get to the line. He also took away some minutes from Brandon Rush, but the starter had a decent second half with some blocked shots, good shooting and a nice finish on an alley-oop. He had 12 points.
- Your daily Josh McRoberts highlight is two-fold this evening. 1) Quinn Buckner has now adopted the McBob's moniker for all color commentary from henceforth; 2) McBob's had a sweet flush seconds before the halftime buzzer.
- The Pacers reported this game as a sellout at Conseco "Reggie Miller" Fieldhouse. All those empty seats must have just been people in the bathrooms. Notice to Pacers ticket managers: throwing tickets away in the dumpsters does not constitute as giving them away. It would be nice to see a real sell out in the Fieldhouse once in awhile.
- After using only three players off the bench in Friday's win against the Cavs, coach Jim O'Brien dug deep for fresh legs tonight. All but Luther Head and T.J. Ford played minutes tonight as we got the rare McBob's and Solomon Jones pairing. In six minutes, Jones nearly outscored Mike Dunleavy, who continues to look more like a coach rather than an NBA player. Duns finished with four points in 15 minutes, but don't forget his three assists. I'll assume that means something.
- Finally, here's some stat stuff from Bruno's post-game notes: The Pacers have scored 110+ points in four straight games and averaged 119.3 in that span; After giving up 12 points on their nine turnovers in the first half, the Pacers committed just three miscues in the second half; and Hibbert has four or more assists in four of the last eight games and has averaged 3.3 in those games.