Danny Granger appeared comfortable the second he touched the ball, isolated against former teammate, Shawne Williams at the top of the key. The two have likely been matched up numerous long forgotten practices, but this moment wouldn't be forgotten and Granger took advantage.
After driving on Williams to create some space, Granger stepped back and snapped off a 17-foot game-winner with 0.3 seconds remaining to give the Indiana Pacers a much-needed win and two-game sweep of the New York Knicks, 119-117.
Wow, this was a fun game from start to finish. The Knicks came out knocking down shots and serving notice that this game would be different than the pounding the Pacers handed out in New York on Sunday. But the Pacers quickly responded and it was on for the rest of the game.
The intensity of the game continued to build throughout. The Pacers attacked the Knicks in the paint drawing fouls in bunches. Led by Tyler Hansbrough, the Pacers were quicker to the ball which helped put Amare Stoudemireon the bench with three fouls with 10 minutes left in the first half. The Pacers appeared in control of the game but far too many turnovers (8 in first quarter, 13 for half) kept the Knicks hanging around, only down three at the half.
Then Hansbrough hit the fan.
The second-year monster forward scored 15 third-quarter points, en route to another career-high scoring night with 30 points, and fueled a 20-4 run to get the Fieldhouse rocking and put the Pacers up 15. Hansbrough finished one play with a vicious, one-handed dunk above the fray that was literally right in the face of Stoudemire.
The Knicks wouldn't go away, though and put together a 10-0 run of their own to close the third and cut the deficit to five heading into winning time. This is when the game felt like so many gut-wrenching losses in the past. The Knicks have closers with bona fides. Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billupscould all take advantage of a game-winning moment that we seemed destined for after the Pacers gave up control of the game.
The Pacers needed someone to step up to match whatever the Knicks had to offer and Roy Hibbert, Darren Collson and of course, Granger all stepped up big to save the win when it counted.
Carmelo Anthony was fully prepared to close this game out for the Knicks with 11 points in the final six minute. A four-point burst from Melo put the Knicks up by three with a little less than four minutes left in the game.
Hibbert and Collison then went to work and found little resistance in the paint. The pair worked off each other with no trepidation to score the Pacers' next 12 points. Eventually the Pacers needed a stop, though which they got when Paul George scooped up a loose ball with 13 second remaining. The rook kept things interesting by making one of two free throws.
Melo wasted no time blowing by Granger to tie the game back up, but he left Granger too much time to redeem himself at the other end.
After the jump, a few more thoughts on the win.
- The starting unit for the Pacers once again carried the load, not only at crunch time but throughout the game. After combining for 81 points on Sunday, the five starters kicked in 100 points even.
- Danny Granger came back after a bout of strep throat to make a big impact on this win for the Pacers. He was active early on the defensive end, getting his hands on a lot of balls and even beating the Knicks to the floor for a loose ball at one point. He was running out of gas late in the game and Frank Vogel game him a breather in the fourth quarter which paid dividends at the end of regulation. Granger finished with 26 points, 3 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal. He also kept the three-balls attempts down, making 2 of 5 for the night.
- Tyler Hansbrough's 30 points came on an efficient 12 of 17 shots from the floor along with 6 of 8 free throws. Hansbrough had it going inside and out, too. His mid-range jumper was absolute money all night, but not nearly as fun as a few of his finishes around the rim, including the leather he served Stoudemire for dinner.
- Darren Collisonhad a wonderful game as well, surviving 4 early turnovers to make all kinds of winning plays in the second half. Collison also had an efficient night with 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting along with 9 assists and 3 rebounds.
- The Knicks had no answer for Roy Hibbert in the post and the big fella took advantage down the stretch to close out another strong game to build on going forward. Hibbert finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Those are numbers that can help the Pacers beat any team in the league.
- Can't forget rookie Paul George playing the low usage, high activity role for the starting team. While George only had 5 points he did have 3 steals, 3 assists and 4 rebounds. Two of those steal came in the fourth quarter steal leading to three points which helped keep the Pacers in the lead.
- The Pacers bench struggled to hang onto leads, with Brandon Rush and A.J. Price not able to get much going offensively. Defensively, though, Jeff Foster, Dahntay Jones and Josh McRobertsoffered up some valuable minutes. McRoberts had a couple of nice dunks off Granger passes to the rim, while Jones hit a big fourth quarter three right after giving Granger a rest.
- Shawne Williams actually started at center for the Knicks tonight instead of Jared Jeffries. Not sure how the Knicks found themselves with Granger isolated on Williams for the game-winner. Surely not the plan.
- The fun continues when the Pacers visit the Boston Celtics tomorrow night and then host the Chicago Bulls on Friday. But they have averted disaster through this difficult stretch of the schedule even if they can't squeeze a split out of the next two games. But if the Pacers can carry over the spirit and execution they played with in the past two games, a certainly isn't out of the question.
- The Pacers picked up a full game on the Milwaukee Bucks thanks to the win and the Atlanta Hawksshowing no fear of the deer by thumping the Bucks 110-85.