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Sunday April 1, 2012 11:41 PM

Pacers Outlast Rockets In OT

Granger's big night helps Indiana hold off Houston for 104-102 win

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - This is what this crazy, compressed roller coaster of a regular season has come down to for the Rockets: razor thin margins that separate winning from losing, and even thinner boundaries dissecting the difference between being a playoff participant and watching the postseason from home.

Forget about fast forwarding to the end of April, however. For Houston the playoffs – and the accompanying postseason-esque intensity – have already arrived.

In what has become a commonplace occurrence at Toyota Center of late, the Rockets went to overtime Sunday night for the third time in their past four games at home. Each of the previous two contests could have easily gone in either direction and Sunday’s showdown with Indiana was certainly no different. The Rockets were in control – and then they weren’t. The Rockets appeared dead – and then suddenly their vital signs were off the charts once again.

A bounce here or call there is typically all it takes to swing the pendulum toward one team or the other in such 50-50 affairs and Sunday’s game most definitely possessed more than its fair share of frozen moments and subtle momentum shifts that tilted the delicate balance of power. Much to the Rockets’ chagrin, the odds were not in their favor as the Pacers held on for a 104-102 win, depriving the Rockets of an invaluable opportunity to put more distance between themselves and the other teams currently nipping at their heels for the eighth and final playoff spot in the jam-packed Western Conference.

That Houston’s players and coaches will lament their missed opportunities in overtime is a certainty. That they will spend even more time ruing their inability to put the game away in regulation, however, is just as much a given. The Rockets entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead and all the momentum after blitzing Indiana in the third period. In fact, after a shaky start to the game that saw Houston fall behind by nine, the Rockets looked to be the superior team for a significant portion of the contest. Goran Dragic (22 points, 6 assists) and Courtney Lee (20 points, 2 steals) were playing off each other exquisitely once again, and Marcus Camby (10 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 blocks) was backing up Friday’s tour de force performance with another excellent showing.

But mid-way through the final frame the Pacers’ offense, previously reduced to just a flicker after their flame-throwing session to start the game, caught fire once again. Danny Granger led the way, burying back-to-back 3-pointers to put Indiana ahead at the 5:33 mark and nothing Houston did in an attempt to cool off the Pacers from that point forward seemed to be effective. Indiana simply made a smorgasbord of shots and when its players did actually miss late in regulation and overtime, more often than not they snagged an offensive rebound or two for another precious possession.

In fact, the only thing the Pacers could not do come crunch time was put the game away from the free throw line, where Darren Collison’s plethora of missed freebies allowed the Rockets an opportunity to steal the game right back. And although Houston came agonizingly close to pulling off the heist, their own inability to connect from the charity stripe (Houston was 5-of-10 at the line) and near the basket (the Rockets hit just 14 of their 29 shots at the rim) proved too much to overcome.

“It’s really disappointing because it’s a home game and it’s a game we had the lead going into the fourth quarter and we let it slip away,” said Lee. “We can’t let that happen. You can’t let those games slip away when we’re trying to make the playoffs and increase our position in the playoff race.”

It’s a bitter pill to swallow to be sure. The loss drops the Rockets a full game behind the Denver Nuggets who now sit in the seventh spot, and leaves just a game in the other direction between Houston and ninth-place Utah. But in this wild, wacky season that began amid a flurry of twists and turns, none of this can really be considered surprising. In fact, it would be downright shocking if there aren’t dozens more u-turns and unexpected detours to come in the final month. This race is changing by the day. And the only thing that seems certain at this point is that the Rockets and the rest of the would-be playoff hopefuls out West are headed for a photo finish.

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(trouble defending Granger): He came off a couple picks and we got caught up. That’s one thing Chandler will have to improve on and he will. You just don’t see too many picks like that in college. He’s getting better at it. I thought the game changed when Granger made two big 3s in the fourth – it kind of got them within shouting distance when we had a little separation there.

(On Goran Dragic's last foul) “We were trying to switch everything. He (Dragic) got switched out with the guy we wanted. We wanted Goran not to be on the guy that we wanted to foul. At that point we should have ducked through and tried to get him out but the whole idea was that we were actually trying to go for the steal.”

(On the end of regulation) “Yeah, we missed some shots and we didn't have the amount of movement that we needed. We tried to shake free on some simple stuff. They really started trying to deny some things but our execution wasn't as good as it needed to be with our ball movement.”

(On why Samuel Dalembert didn't play in the end) “You play five at a time. If we played six we probably would have rebounded better.”

GORAN DRAGIC

(On the loss) “We had our chances. We didn't score on open shots. They (Pacers) were playing well. It was a really tough game for us. They were stronger than we were. It was a really tough loss. “

(On the Rockets being outscored 30 to 20 in the 4th quarter) “They made some tough shots, especially (Danny) Granger. He made two 3's  and then he made a shot over Chandler (Parsons). They (Pacers) were just executing better offensively. We had our chances and on defense, maybe we were too soft. We should play more stronger and put some pressure on the ball. At the end of the game, everybody is tired and we tried to give 100 percent. They (Pacers) should be tired because they had a back-to-back. We should have tried to jump on them early.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

(defending Granger): They run a lot of screens for him. He’s always moving, he’s strong, he’s a great player. When he’s hitting like that he’s tough to guard. I could have definitely got into him a little more. As a jumpshooter, I should have taken away some space on some plays, but they were doing a great job of getting him open.

COURTNEY LEE

It’s really disappointing because it’s a home game and it’s a game we had the lead going into the fourth quarter and we let it slip away. We can’t let that happen. You can’t let those games slip away when we’re trying to make the playoffs and increase out position in the playoff race.

(how do you shake this off with tough road trip looming?): It’s the NBA, my man. We’ve got a game tomorrow. You get over it real quick.

(On his traveling call in overtime) “We were tangled up for about ten seconds and then I was able to rip it away. I was trying to call timeout but my feet didn't stop moving, I guess, and that's all they saw, my feet moving, and they called it traveling.”

MARCUS CAMBY

(On the Rockets play in overtime) “I think they (Pacers) out hustled us, especially in the start of that overtime. They got like three or four offensive possessions before they finally got the bucket. I thought the guys fought hard. We had opportunities to win the ball game, we just didn't do a good job of closing out this game.”

(On the loss) “I like the effort that we had. We didn't give up going down the stretch. We just didn't make enough plays.”

INDIANA PACERS COACH FRANK VOGEL

(On Pacers win) “This was a big time win for us. It was the second game of a back-to-back following a tough loss last night in San Antonio. With the early start, our guys really competed hard for five quarters, I am proud of their effort.”

(On Pacers transition game) “Despite the back-to-back, we were committed to the running game and got 26 fast-break points that was key for us tonight.”

(On Danny Granger’s offense) “We thought we had a good match-up tonight with Chandler Parsons on Danny (Granger). Chandler is a good defender, but he is young and a little green. Danny really got it going in the fourth quarter and in overtime.”

(On last possession of the game) “We thought they would try to isolate someone, we had a foul to give, which is a luxury in that situation. The concern in that you foul someone who is shooting and give them free throws. Danny made an intelligent foul and then he made a heck of a basketball play to block (Chandler) Parsons shot.”

DANNY GRANGER

(On the last possession) “With (Goran) Dragic out of the game we knew (Chandler) Parsons was a good outside shooter and they may go to him, when Parsons got the ball, I just ran out on him and was able to get the block.”

(On his offensive tonight) “I was able to get going and my shot was falling tonight. When that happens coach tends to run more plays for me, and I had it going.”

(On the road trip) “We wanted to go 2-0 on this back-to-back, after the lost last night, it was great to get the win tonight against a really good team, the Rockers are a playoff team. We needed this win, and now we get to go home.”

ROY HIBBERT

(On out rebounding the Rockets in overtime) “They did a good job of getting rebounds and second chance points in the first half. In overtime we made a concerted emphasis to get rebounds and we were fortunate that we got them.”

(On running in transition tonight)  “We are a well conditioned team, our first and second units can get t up and down the court, I even ran a little bit more in transition tonight. That kind of got us going and I am happy we got the win.”

NOTES

Houston and Indiana went to overtime tonight with the Pacers taking a 104-102 victory. The Rockets have now gone to OT in three of their last four home games. Houston moved to 3-5 in OT this season.

The Rockets have now placed all five starters in double-figure scoring five times this season (1/13/12 vs. Sacramento, 3/4/12 vs. L.A. Clippers, 3/6/12 at Boston, 3/24/12 vs. Dallas and 4/1/12 vs. Indiana).

Houston shot a season-high 101 field goals tonight (.436, 44-101 FG), surpassing the previous high of 96 done three times (last on 3/24/12 vs. Dallas).

The Pacers improved to 11-5 (6-3 on road) against Western Conference opponents with tonight’s win.

Indiana outrebounded the Rockets by a 54-44 (-10) count tonight, setting Houston’s opponent season high in rebounds (prev. best: 53 on 1/3/12 at L.A. Lakers).

Houston lost for just the fourth time this season when leading after three quarters. The Rockets also dropped a 10-point advantage tonight, which marked the eighth time this season Houston’s opponent has returned from a double-figure deficit to defeat the Rockets.

Goran Dragic finished with a team-high 22 points (8-14 FG, 3-6 3FG), six boards and six assists tonight. It was Dragic’s sixth 20-point game of the season.

Courtney Lee scored 20 points (9-17 FG, 2-5 3FG) to go with four assists and two steals. Lee has now netted double-digit point totals in a season-high-tying five consecutive games (3/24/12-4/1/12). He also reached double-figure scoring in a season-high five consecutive games in Feb. (2/6/12-2/14/12).

Marcus Camby posted 10 points (5-8 FG), nine rebounds, a season-high four steals and four blocks tonight. Camby also had a season-high six blocks in the prior game vs. Memphis (3/30/12).

Chandler Parsons, who had 11 double-digit scoring games in the month of Mar. 2012, scored 14 points (6-12 FG, 2-4 3FG) tonight.

Danny Granger had a game-high 32 points (11-20 FG, 6-8 3FG, 4-4 FT), seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks tonight. The Pacers are now 18-9 when Granger leads the team in scoring.

Roy Hibbert, who had 15 points (6-14 FG) and three blocks last season at Houston (3/5/11), had another 15 points (6-14 FG), nine rebounds (5 offensive) and a season-high five blocks.

David West recorded 12 points (5-12 FG), six boards and four assists tonight. West had 29 points (9-20 FG, 11-12 FT) as a member of the Hornets in his last game at Houston (1/14/11).

Darren Collison totaled 11 points (4-8 FG) and a game-high seven assists, while Tyler Hansbrough led all rebounders with 10 boards off the bench tonight.

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