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With a handful of breathtaking victories already and the season not yet halfway complete, these Pacers have earned something special. And since I don't have any particularly constructive skills other than thinking up stuff to type as fast as I can, this is the best I can do: let's come up with a nickname.
Their stunning 113-110 victory in Phoenix Wednesday marked the 11th game this season they've played decided by three points or less. They've won five of those, each on their final possession.
So what to dub these thrillseekers?
Cardiac Kids is too easy, been done too many times. Seems like every team that wins a couple of close games starts calling itself that, or some form of it.
To me, this one's a natural: The Pacemakers.
Because if they keep this up, I'm going to need one.
If you've got something better, and odds are you do, please post it as a comment at the end of this blog. After a few days we'll put the nominations together and have some kind of vote or something. Sounds official, right?
Just in case you need your memory refreshed, what follows is a list that should explain why I'm making this particular fuss.
Nov. 26 at Houston: Pacers 91, Rockets 90
The Pacers wiped out a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and beat the Rockets when Danny Granger tipped in his own miss with 13 seconds left. Troy Murphy had a big game from the 3-point line to help spark the comeback.
Trailing 90-89, Granger drove and his first shot bounced off the back rim but he tipped-in the game-winner. The Rockets took a timeout and worked the ball to Yao Ming, who missed in traffic. Ron Artest grabbed the rebound but couldn't get a quality shot in the scramble and his desperation fadeaway wasn't close.
Dec. 2 at Conseco Fieldhouse: Pacers 118, Lakers 117
Another tip-in, this time by Troy Murphy, completed another comeback and delivered a shocking victory over the Lakers. The Pacers thus became the first team in the NBA this season to beat both of the reigning NBA Finalists.
The Lakers brought a seven-game winning streak into the game and scored the final 17 points of the third quarter to take a 101-86 lead. But Granger and Murphy teamed up again and the defense held the Lakers to 16 points in the final period.
Kobe Bryant's long jumper gave the Lakers a 117-116 lead but missed a jumper on the Lakers' next possession that left the door open. The Pacers called a timeout and got the ball to Marquis Daniels, who got an open look on a baseline drive but missed the shot. It was tipped around before Murphy batted it toward the hoop. It hit both sides of the rim, rose into the air and dropped through.
Dec. 20 at Philadelphia: Pacers 95, Sixers 94
T.J. Ford was the hero this time, hitting a 15-footer with 3.9 seconds left to cap a 25-point game and give the Pacers another improbable one-point win.
Indiana played without Granger, Murphy and Daniels, who all were out with viral infections.
The Pacers rallied from an 88-83 deficit in the final three minutes with an 8-1 run, taking a 91-89 lead with 1:30 left on Jeff Foster's 3-point play. Andre Iguodala rebounded his own miss and after a turnover by Jarrett Jack, Lou Williams drove for a dunk that put the Sixers in front 94-93 with 17 seconds left.
After working the clock, Ford pulled up in the key for the game-winner.
The Sixers had the last shot but Iguodala missed a tough lefty drive as time expired.
Jan. 2 at New York: Pacers 105, Knicks 103
Jack atoned for his potentially costly turnover in Philly by hitting a long jumper with nine-tenths of a second remaining to beat the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. The shot capped a 29-point night by Jack, who scored the Pacers' final six points and eight of 10 as they wiped out a 98-93 deficit in the final three minutes.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and was particularly sweet for Jack, whose game-winner came over Knicks guard Chris Duhon, his cousin.
The Pacers looked to be in good shape when Jack drove to put them up 103-100 with 24 seconds left. But Murphy fouled a driving Wilson Chandler, who converted the tying three-point play with 12 seconds to go. After Jack's big shot, the Knicks called a timeout and worked an inbounds play to Nate Robinson, who missed a long, off-balance 3-pointer.
Jan. 7 at Phoenix: Pacers 113, Suns 110
With nine-tenths of a second remaining – the same amount of time the Knicks had the previous week – Pacers Coach Jim O'Brien set up an inbounds play that resulted in a defensive switch by Phoenix that left Granger open at the top of the arc, guarded by a much smaller defender, Steve Nash.
Granger's long try splashed just as the horn sounded and the Pacers had yet another heart-stopping victory. Granger scored 37 and became the first Pacers NBA player ever to score at least 35 in three consecutive games.
“Coach drew up a great play," Granger said. "We ran some people around and I ran away and I popped to the top and got a look. When I got that open look, I let it go. I’m always confident it’s going in the hole. We’re just trying to get as many wins as possible because we’re better than our record shows."
The Pacers led throughout until Phoenix took its only lead, 110-108, on Leandro Barbosa's 30-pointer with 45 seconds left. Granger tied it with a jumper with 34 seconds to go and the Suns missed two shots on their last possession, leaving the door cracked, if not completely open, for Granger to push through.
"My last game winning shot," Granger said, "I think was in college."
In fact, it was less than two months ago.
I thought this was fun, good read too.
Please let me know if I didn't post it right, though. I tried to have the byline etc.