I didn't realize that we were this physical. It seems like once we figure out how a team is beating us we are able to make successful adjustments. In this case, the Jazz were quicker and defending much better.
Once we started pounding it inside it was over for them. They also seem to have a lot of repect for us.
Also I find it cool that we still play at Market Square Arena.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Andrei Kirilenko's face was nicked and scuffed Sunday, blood oozing from a half-dozen tiny cuts as though he had just staggered through 12 rounds with the welterweight champ.
Figures. He and the Jazz spent the afternoon slugging it out with the Pacers for three quarters, each team landing blow after blow in a battle that looked dead even into the final round. But the Jazz turned their heads for just a moment, and pow! -- the Pacers knocked them out.
The judges' scorecard in Market Square Arena read 94-80, but the Jazz's fight -- maybe kickboxing would be more appropriate, considering the shot Raja Bell took from Reggie Miller -- with the Eastern Conference leaders was a lot closer than that. Neither team held a lead bigger than six points until the fourth quarter of the foul-filled contest, but the Jazz's nerve finally wavered.
"We put our heads down for a minute, and that's all it took," said Bell, who played a season-high 40 minutes and scored 21 points. "We were right there for three quarters."
They were, even though they weren't sinking many shots. For the fifth consecutive game, the Jazz made fewer than 40 percent of their shots, and the total included nine missed layups. "That's like 'our' problem now," said Kirilenko, who led the Jazz with 22 points.
"It kills us," agreed coach Jerry Sloan. "I guess we're going to have to do layup coaching. Or lay-down coaching."
Not a bad idea, since "lay down" is what the Jazz did once Indiana, seemingly annoyed at having to work so hard on a weekend, cranked up the pressure near the end of the third quarter.
The Jazz led 66-62 with 1:30 to play in the third, but they made only one basket, a layup by Jarron Collins, over the next 7 1/2 minutes. Indiana's 17-2 run included 11 free throws, just a sample of the 50 they took during the day, and a good reflection of how aggressive the Pacers were about attacking the basket.
"They were posting up three different guys at times," Bell said, especially Jermaine O'Neal, who led Indiana with 22 points, and All Harrington, who scored 14. "When a team is punishing you and being aggressive, that's when you've got to return the favor. I don't think we necessarily did that, and that was the game right there."
It was, especially since when the Pacers took over, the Jazz shied away from shooting. Shooters would get open but pass instead, until the shot clock forced worse shots on them.
Sloan pleaded with Kirilenko and Sasha Pavlovic to recognize good shots, but finally he grew so frustrated, he yanked point guard Carlos Arroyo just 30 seconds after putting him back in the game when Arroyo popped open for a three-pointer, but passed instead.
"We play right into their hands because we don't judge our time on the clock well enough," Sloan said. "Our guys get a little panicky, a little scattered. Good teams have the ability to take advantage of those situations, and they've got some veteran guys."
That might have been the biggest difference Sunday, and it's a formula the Jazz routinely called upon in years past: play even with a lesser team for a while, then put them away with precision play at the end. The Pacers, running away with the East's No. 1 seed, knew when to turn it on, "and right then, our execution went away for little while," Kirilenko said. "We were ahead, then boom -- they were up by 10. And it's pretty hard to come back."
Especially since the Pacers relentlessly fed O'Neal in the pivot. The all-star forward took 15 free throws, making 13, and keyed a stretch in which 18 of 24 Indiana points came at the line. The Jazz took 31 free throws and lost Jarron Collins and Raul Lopez to fouls, but couldn't bring themselves to complain about the discrepancy.
"When you pound it inside and the refs see you being aggressive in there, they reward you for that," Bell said.
Strangely, the biggest complaint about officiating came from Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, who was so livid over an offensive foul called on Miller -- when Miller twice appeared to kick Bell in the groin -- he stormed the court and earned an ejection.
He missed an impressive fourth-quarter flurry by his team, over the game-but-outgunned Jazz, who lost for the fourth time in five games (and eighth time in 11), but appear recovered from their post-all-star hangover.
"They are pretty good at post-up game. Everyone posts up and that's pretty hard to guard," said Kirilenko, daubing at his cuts. "That's why they lead the East."