INDIANAPOLIS, IN—The Pacers beat the Raptors 105-101 at Conseco Fieldhouse Monday. The victory is the third in the last 14 games but gives them a little momentum in this week where they play three of four games at home. Indysportsnation's Jeremiah Johnson reported on the game for Fox Sports Indiana and had these observations both during and after the game.
The Raptors are having a much better season (19-19) compared to the Pacers (11-25) and already have a home victory over Indiana (123-112) a game that Danny Granger led the Pacers in scoring with 36 points.
I was interested in seeing how Granger would perform in his third game back in the lineup after missing 16 with the torn planter fascia in his right foot. He did lead the Pacers in scoring (25) at Oklahoma City Saturday, but was just 13-40 from the field over the weekend.
First Quarter: Raptors 30 Pacers 22
My first thought when walking into the arena, where are all the fans. Granted, I have thought that a time or two this season, but this might be one of the weakest crowds of the season. I realize it is a Colts Playoff week and the weather isn't the best, but to steal an often-used phrase, "This is Indiana" For whatever reason the fans just haven't taken to this team and the losing hasn't helped. I tend to believe all things are cyclical, but tonight's crowd is another indication of how much work needs to be done to get the fans energized.
Bosh is a Beast: We hear quite a bit about Chris Bosh, even if he plays in Toronto. He is one of the prized prospects of the upcoming Free Agent class and would be a great addition to any NBA team (including the Pacers) He comes into play averaging 24 points & 11 rebounds and is coming off a 31 points performance Sunday against the Celtics. Bosh picked up where he left off scoring 12 first quarter points Monday. He also helped get Roy Hibbert in early foul trouble, the Pacers second-year center picked up his first foul at the 11:23 mark of the first quarter and added a second at 8:50.
Murphy's Magic: The only reason the Pacers were within striking distance after 12 minutes was due to the three-point shooting from Troy Murphy. He was 4-for-5 from outside the arc in the first quarter. He also contributed on the glass tallying 6 defensive rebounds. At the end of the first quarter, Murphy was on pace for a 48 points, 24 rebound performance, but the Pacers were on track for a 32 point loss.
Halftime Score: Raptors 65 Pacers 52
This quarter featured many things you see often in an NBA game. A big run by one team and and answer by the other. The Raptors turned an 8-point lead into a 23-point cushion through the first eight minutes of the quarter. However, the Pacers moved to within striking distance the final four minutes and cut the deficit to 13 points at the half.
Former Pacers Shine: I was a bit amused last week when I heard promotions about the Raptors game and it being your chance to see Jarrett Jack. After just one season in Indianapolis, I'm not sure just how many die-hard Jarrett Jack fans there are in Central Indiana, but he was a fun player to watch and I was looking forward to seeing first-hand how he fit in with the Raptors.
Rasho Nesterovic also is back with Toronto and had some solid contributions in the second quarter. He scored six points in just 3:51 of action. After one nice play, teammate Hedo Turkoglu yelled from the bench, "They shouldn't have let you go Rasho!" While Nesterovic is not a difference maker at this point in his career, he did provide a nice lift in a very brief appearance at Conseco Fieldhouse Monday.
Buzzer Beaters: Thanks to an almost last-second shot by Luther Head, the Pacers had cut the deficit to 10 at with 1.7 seconds left in the half. However, Antoine Wright connected with a highlight-worth buzzer beater of his own to provide the final points of the half.
After 3 Quarters: Raptors 84 Pacers 78
I figured the second half could go one of two directions. Either the Pacers would come out fired up, make a run and compete until the final seconds or the Raptors would extend the lead to nearly 20, and the second half would be rather anticlimactic. The Pacers chose Option A.
Welcome Back Danny: There is a big difference between trying to make a comeback and win a close game with Danny Granger and without. I think there is no way the Pacers would've been in position to beat Toronto Monday if #33 were in street clothes. He scored eight points in the third and gave the Pacers a big scoring option they had been lacking during the 16 games he missed.
Intensity-T: Another player who had been noticeably absent the last seven games was Tyler Hansbrough. He is still recovering from a serious inner ear infection, and the Pacers welcomed him back with open arms. He played 6:48 in the third quarter, scored four points and got the crowd fired up for a close finish.
Final Score: Pacers 105 Raptors 101
While I noted how small the crowd felt at the start, give credit to the 11,039 (announced attendance) who came and stayed until the end. The fans were treated to a VERY entertaining fourth quarter and quite a few clutch shots from the home team.
Not Playing Like a Rookie: While I'm still not 100% sure what to make of the T.J. Ford demotion to oblivion, rookie A.J. Price has certainly made the most of his opportunity. He finished with 16 points, 8 in the fourth quarter and hit a HUGE shot to give the Pacers a four-point lead, 100-96. Price knows he still has a long way to go, but is pleased with his development.
"My development is what my coaching staff and players around me have given me. I have to be a little slower sometimes in knowing what do do with the ball when I take it in the paint. My comfort level is improving and it's still a work in progress."
Where Was Dahntay? One of the bright spots of the first part of the season was the play of off-season acquisition Dahntay Jones. He only played 5:40 in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma City and got his first DNP of the season against the Raptors. It doesn't appear that this is injury related, and could very well be an attitude/team chemistry issue. Until recently I thought Dahntay was going to be a key ingredient for the future based on his hard-nosed play and ability to defend while also adding scoring punch. Even if Jim O'Brien is moving in a different direction, I am not ready to give up DJ just yet.
Earl is the Man Earl Watson made his 12th start of the season and appears firmly entrenched as the leader of the team. He is not flashy, but is certainly productive. While you might have expected either Troy Murphy or Danny Granger to hit the game-deciding shots, Watson was the man Monday. He gave the Pacers their first lead since 5-4 of the first quarter, 95-92. Then he added a clutch long two to give the Pacers another three-point lead, 97-94. T.J. Ford just hasn't clicked with Jim O'Brien, but Earl Watson appears to be doing a much better job.
Up 3, Foul: We will end the Notebook with props to Danny Granger/Jim O'Brien for committing a foul with under ten seconds left and a three point lead. He sent Chris Bosh to the free throw line and he made only one of the two freebies. Then, Mike Dunleavy got fouled and made both free throws giving the Pacers a four-point lead and that was your ball game. The Pacers won 105-101, thanks in large part to the foul situation that is so often debated by fans and media members late in the game.