[Ed Note: Muchas gracias to Tom Kester for gracing the 8p9s community with his presence tonight for the Raptors recap. Kester is easily my favorite person I've never met. Other than Gandhi. But that dude's dead, so screw 'em. If you're really nice to Tom and tell him how great he is maybe he'll come back and share his infinite wisdom with us again some day.]
Pacers 105 – Raptors 101
With a come-from-a-long-way-behind 105-101 win over the Raptors at Conseco this evening, the Pacers moved to 3-3 in 2010.
Danny Granger scored 23 on 9 of 19 shooting. Troy Murphy had another double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds. And guards Earl Watson and AJ Price combined for 27 points and 10 assists as Indiana used the same starting line-up for the third game in a row (Murphy, Granger, Hibbert, Watson and Head).
Early on, the Pacers seemed to be following a well-learned script, falling down 12-5 in the first 6:54, at which point Roy Hibbert and Luther Head both had two fouls and were pulled. Hibbert struggled to react to the quicker, smaller Raptor bigs in his short time out there, and only returned to the court for a brief 2-minute stretch in the second quarter before heading to the bench for good.
In his place, back-up center Solomon Jones was effective during his time in the game (tallying 10 points and 9 boards in 17 minutes), while sharing the big man duties with Troy Murphy, Tyler Hansbrough (4 points/7 rebounds) and Danny, who saw extended minutes at the power forward spot. In more good news, Hansbrough seems to have fully recovered from his inner ear infection, falling or stumbling awkwardly no more often than usual.
Within 2 minutes of Hibbert’s departure, the Raptor lead was 8, which is where it eventually ended the 1st period. It seemed that Pacers announcer Chris Denari had already deployed his “eerily similar to other starts” line at least three times by this point, while Quinn Buckner was in full excuse mode (“what happened there was … and you can’t help it … but he’ll get better at that as he gets more used to …”). The Raptors were shooting above 50%, the Pacers around 35% and things were not looking good. The 3-balls were flying, but they weren’t falling, except for off the hands of Murphy, who had 12 of the Pacers’ first 14 points by hitting 4 of his first 5 shots from behind the arc.
Denari was right — this was eerily similar to most of the last dozen broadcasts.
The Pacers showed a little life in the final few minutes of the 1st, but just 4 minutes into the 2nd quarter, the Pacers were down 47-26, and TV viewers were preparing to switch from the game to The Bachelor: On the Wings of Love all across the great state of Indiana — or, at least across the portion of the state where cable providers actually carry Fox Sports Indiana. Just then, Granger was called for half of a double-technical along with back-up Toronto SG Sonny Weems. Seemingly incensed at being equated with Sonny Weems in any fashion, Granger went on a tear and scored 8 of the Pacers next 10 points.
Still, Indy was trailing by 23 with 4:20 left in the first half, but the Pacers finally seemed to pick up some of Granger’s long-awaited focus and went on a 16-6 run to close out the 2nd period down 13 (65-52). During that run, both Jarrett Jack and Chris Bosh seemed to have difficulties with a D-League replacement official, as Jack reportedly asked him if it was his first time refereeing an NBA game after being whistled for his third personal.
With this run, the Pacers worked their own FG% up to a semi-respectable 42%, but Toronto was still shooting 53% at the half. “They got out in transition, and we weren’t making them work in the half-court,” AJ Price told Mark Boyle’s post-game radio crowd. Austin Croshere described the Pacers’ first half pick-and-roll defense as “porous at best.”
The Pacers managed to bear down on defense in the 3rd period, however, holding the Raptors to just 19 points (after allowing 35 and 30 in the 2nd and 1st, respectively), while positive contributions from Hansbrough, Solomon and Granger helped the Pacers rack up 26 in the quarter.
There were no great runs, just a gradual attrition, as Indiana slowly pecked away at Toronto’s lead.
During one memorable sequence around the 8-minute mark of the 3rd, Earl Watson stole the ball from Jack as he crossed the timeline and broke for an easy lay-up. On the very next play, Earl drew a charge on Jack, who was again trying — and failing — to bring the ball across the line. Watson then dished an assist to Solomon, and stole the ball again when Jack’s replacement attempted to bring the ball up-court.
The Raptors lead was down to 6 at that point and, by the end of the period, Toronto was holding onto a tenuous 84-78 advantage. All told, the Raptors hit only four field goals in the 3rd.
The Pacers push to take the lead took the first 7 minutes of the 4th period — but the tortoise would eventually win this race.
Indiana outscored Toronto 17-8, as Mike Dunleavy scored seven of his 15 in that run. At 92-92, before a Watson three-ball gave the Pacers the lead, Chris Denari, on the FSI broadcast, remarked that this was the first time this year he could remember seeing Dunleavy, Murphy and Granger in the game together.
It seemed to work well because Toronto never regained the lead.
Indiana held an advantage between 2 and 5 points for the remainder of the game as all five Pacers on the floor — Granger, Price, Watson, Murphy and Dunleavy — scored in the last five minutes.
- Since his Thanksgiving return, Dunleavy has sometimes been a force on the floor and sometimes looked weak and ineffectual. Tonight, he sometimes seemed to be a force on the floor, and sometimes looked weak and ineffectual. When he scored 39 points in a couple of games in the ’07-08 season, he sometimes seemed to be a force on the floor, and sometimes looked weak and ineffectual. Tonight he had 15 points on 5-10 shooting, with 5 boards. Maybe, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what he looks like.
- Troy Murphy’s 20 point, 16 rebound, plus-11 effort in the win marks the first time in weeks that he has not been roundly vilified on Pacers fan boards during a game — whether he played or not. He has now played in five of the Pacers’ 12 wins and 21 of the team’s 25 losses. He is the leading rebounder on the team and the second leading scorer. And he has the team’s worst season plus/minus at -228.
Don’t Call It a Comeback (OK, Do): By The Numbers