The beauty of a meeting between two sliding teams is that one of them must momentarily rise, even if the game itself is far from beautiful. Thursday's match-up between the Nets, losers of seven straight, and the Pacers, who had dropped five in a row, was waaaaaay far from beautiful, but Indiana survived some dicey late-game execution to break their streak by the score of 93-88.
New Jersey bolted out to an 11-point lead in the first quarter behind Deron Williams' determined scoring and Kris Humphries' perfect shooting from the field. That momentum was promptly dashed with a 15-0 Pacers run that spanned the first and second quarter, then with a flurry of scoring from Danny Granger.
Granger, playing quite ably despite a sprained left ankle that had held him out of the previous game and a half, led Indiana the rest of the way and kept them steadily afloat despite team-wide 40 percent shooting and momentary confusion over whether or not the world had ended. (If you had "A.J. Price pump fake" in your office Cause Of The Apocalypse pool, please collect your prize, then get underground immediately). Granger's 32 points led all scorers, and included 4-7 shooting from downtown.
Indiana's defense, too, spurred the comeback and kept them up throughout. Paul George, who often switched over to bother Deron Williams, was the key defensively, and Indy Cornrows noticed a marked uptick in his contribution on that end, particularly in the second half:
The third quarter was an ugly showcase of solid defense; all led by Paul George, who didn't have a lot of numbers besides his four steals, but absolutely focused in on his game defensively, disrupting the New Jersey rhythm offensively. Meanwhile, the refs were swallowing the whistles at every drive at the basket, as both teams went back and forth, struggling to score any points in the third.
The game stayed close for most of the rest of the way. Indiana's shooting didn't get any better, but the Nets completely crashed after shooting 57 percent in the first half, despite getting quite a few calls in their favor (or did it just seem that way because the Indiana crowd reacts so ferociously when the refs make a call against the Pacers?).
Indiana pulled ahead by nine with less than two minutes remaining and appeared to have the game in hand, but made just enough horrid passes and blown layup attempts to allow the Nets a shred of hope. In the end, Indiana made their free throws and Granger stuffed an Anthony Morrow three-pointer that would have cut it to two.
The narrow win got Indiana back in the win column and up to 18-12, while the Nets kept sliding to an overall record of 8-23.