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Bench Boost Can't Compensate for First-Quarter Funk

February 6th, 2011

NEWARK, N.J. Balance, savvy and athleticism all served the Indiana Pacers well in a 105-86 victory against the overmatched Nets. Dahntay Jones tallied a season-high 18 points for Indiana, while Mike Dunleavy pitched in 17. No Net scored over 13.

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Bench Boost Can't Compensate for 1st-Quarter Funk
Pacers rookie Paul George can jump. This first became obvious midway through the second quarter, when Danny Grangers fast-break alley-oop toss was headed out of bounds until George fell from the sky to slam it down with two thunderous hands.

But at the end of the third quarter, Nets center Johan Petro rose to meet him midair, punching the ball out from Georges grip. The violent, crowd-pleasing block kept the Pacers ever-expanding lead from growing once again, and served as yet another example of Petros recent run of solid contributions off the bench. Though the Nets lost to the Pacers, 105-86, at Prudential Center, the 7-footer tied his season high with eight points, shooting 4-of-7 while adding four rebounds, two assists and a steal.

That (block) was the type of contribution I was trying to make the whole year, Petro said. Thats the system. You just have to trust it, and sometimes you get the block and sometimes you get the foul. Tonight I got the block, and some fouls.

Petro picked up five fouls, one of several Nets struggling with whistles Sunday Brook Lopez and Devin Harris each were tagged with two fouls in the first quarter, the second for each coming on charges drawn by lithe forward Mike Dunleavy. With Jordan Farmar (lower back strain) out for a fifth straight game, that meant early minutes for undrafted rookie Ben Uzoh, and the 6-foot-3 guard again filled in with a solid showing.

Uzoh finished the game with eight points (3-8 FGs), three rebounds and five assists in 21 minutes, committing only one turnover. The game is clearly slowing down for the 22-year-old, who says hes been able to build on the experience hes gotten subbing for Farmar during this recent stretch.

I think Ive been solid for us, Uzoh said. There are some areas that coach is still asking of me which Im still working on. All in all, I think I did well, but I want to win. Winning solves a lot of things, and though I may be a bright spot, I want to win.

One aspect of his game that hadnt been revealed thus far was a hyper-athletic double-pump slam on the fast break after the game had been decided in the fourth quarter. Orien Greene, working on Day Five of his first 10-day contract this season, ripped George clean and dished the ball to a cutting Uzoh, who caught the ball mid-stride and pumped up-and-under to avoid a block and flush the dunk.

Though Uzohs proved himself capable, coach Avery Johnson admitted that with Farmar out, the Nets have missed his shooting touch (.367 3P%). Theyre hoping he returns for Wednesdays game against the Hornets (7 p.m., Buy Tickets) after completing a full practice on Tuesday, but even with that expected boost and the pending return of forward Damion James from a broken foot around the All-Star Break Johnson said he would strongly consider shaking up the starting lineup.

Were really going to have to really address the starting team before the break and after the break, because were just not getting as much energy as we need, Johnson said. We subbed (Quinton) Ross in early in the third quarter and he did a nice job for us. He did a nice job during a stretch there defensively, and we ended up losing that quarter by a point (25-24).

Ross, who hadnt played more than 15 minutes since January 12, finished the game with six points (3-3 FGs), three rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes.

Just working every day, coming to the gym, coming to practice and working hard, Ross said. When the opportunity comes, youve got to be ready.

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