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If Pacers coach Jim O'Brien didn't convince you when he said last week that the Pacers aren't making the playoffs, then the Atlanta Hawks just made him a prophet Friday night by beating the Pacers 122-188 officially taking the Pacers out playoff contention.
If it was any consolation, the Pacers have been playing some of their best basketball in the past 3 seasons. Also, a win by the Pacers would not have had any bearing either since the Pistons who currently hold the number 8 seed in the Eastern Conference won last night as well and mathematically eliminating the Pacers quit of the playoff picture as well.
Danny Granger added to his brilliant season by leading the Pacers again scoring 35 points with 3 steals, 4 rebounds and 1 block. Troy Murphy who along wiht Granger have had a career year added 21 points and 10 rebounds. Both players I would have to say are candidates for the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
Honestly, despite the loss and not getting into the playoffs for a third straight year, you can't help but tip your hats to this group. This is a team who has been dessimated by injuries from the get-go. Key players like Mike Dunleavy. Marquis Daniels, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster have all been in and out of the line-up. But despite that, the Pacers rookies Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert have both filled-in well when given the oppurtunity. Rush finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds last night while Hibbert added 16 in 8. Another player that has been giving the Pacers reason to smile all year is point guard Jarrett Jack. If you ask me, I'd love to see Jack be our full-time starter next season and maybe trade away TJ Ford to free up more cap space so we can acquire a high profile big man or a marquee name that can help boost ticket sales as well. Call me crazy but I don't mind seeing Allen Iverson in a Pacers uniform next season, but I'm going to save all of that for another article.
Former IU recruit Josh Smith led the Hawks with 30 points and 10 rebounds and Al Horford added 22 and 15.
Pacers point guard and former Georgia Tech star Jarrett Jack had this to say about the game and his return to the state of Georgia:
"We came out and worked hard and fought hard tonight. They’re an athletic bunch, and coach warned us is that the third quarter is when they make their runs, and we weren’t able to withstand their runs tonight."
"Of course we wanted to come in and spoil their celebration tonight. I see a lot of these guys in the offseason, the Hawks have worked hard all year to put themselves in this position, and you can see that it has paid off."
"This is definitely the highlight of my season coming back to Atlanta and seeing a lot of familiar faces.”
The Pacers have 3 games remaining in the season and fortunately all of them are home games where the Pacers are hard to beat. It also gives local fans their final oppurtunity to check this group out live. This team has been one of the more exciting teams to watch in recent memory. Despite their record, the Pacers lead the league in games decided with 3 points or less which means they are always in ball games. Just a few tweaks here and there and with the added experience, this looks to be a very promising team next season. The next home game will be tonight against Detroit who have struggled all year after trading MVP candidate Chauncey Billups.