INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Indiana Pacers took their fans on one last gut-wrenching ride Wednesday night.
The high-scoring Pacers overcame a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 115-108 in their season finale. It was a typical game for Indiana in a season during which it seemed no lead was too big to squander, and no deficit too large to overcome.
“We’ve had a crazy, crazy season,” Indiana point guard Jarrett Jack said. “Games that we thought we had control over, we ended up losing them in the end, and I thought we were kind of headed down that same road. But the guys showed a lot of fight, we were able to pull ourselves out of that bad situation and end our season right with a big ‘W.”’
Indiana’s Danny Granger made his final push for the league’s most improved player award. He scored 16 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter in his 23rd game with 30 or more points this season. Brandon Rush scored 15 of his 24 points in the final period, and Jack had eight points and 10 assists for Indiana.
The Pacers outscored the Bucks 43-20 in the fourth quarter and made seven 3-pointers in the final period. Indiana’s outburst came after the Bucks had outscored the Pacers 39-16 in the third quarter.
“A bizarro game,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said.
O’Brien credited Diener and McRoberts for their efforts.
“I would say they provided a tremendous spark,” O’Brien said. “If it wasn’t for the guys we had in the whole fourth quarter, we don’t win this basketball game.”
Troy Murphy grabbed 12 rebounds, giving him 861 to break Clark Kellogg’s Indiana NBA record for most rebounds in a season, set in 1983. The team joined the NBA in 1976.
“It means a lot,” Murphy said. “I’m very proud to be associated with this franchise, and any kind of success with a franchise that has this kind of history is a great honor.”
Murphy also became the first player in NBA history to finish in the top five in the league in 3-point percentage and rebounds per game.
Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles saw the loss as another missed opportunity.
“We built a nice lead and we were playing very well and playing really hard and playing good defense,” he said. “And, as has happened to us so many times this year, we had a hard time sustaining that effort, concentration. We started jogging back in transition, gave up some threes. They got that working for them. That’s their game.”
Milwaukee led 95-80 in the fourth quarter before the Pacers went on an 8-2 run that included 3-pointers by Granger and Rush and forced the Bucks to call a timeout.
The Pacers continued their surge after the break, and another 3-pointer by Granger, his fourth of the quarter, gave Indiana a 103-101 lead with 3 minutes left. Two minutes later, a layup by Josh McRoberts bumped Indiana’s lead to 109-103.
Jefferson answered with a 3-pointer, but Rush came back with another 3 to give the Pacers a 112-106 lead with 33 seconds left.
“We had so many defensive breakdowns, almost every possession, and they’re a good offensive team,” Skiles said. “They made us pay for it. We just lost all of our energy.”
The Bucks led 88-72 at the end of the quarter.
“I’m not a believer in luck or good fortune,” Jefferson said. “I believe you either do things like you’re supposed to or you don’t do them. We played very good defense in the third quarter, combined with them missing some shots, and then we came out in the fourth quarter and didn’t do those things. We just didn’t do anything to make things go right for us.”
: Miss America, Katie Stam of Seymour, Ind., attended the game. She took photographs with fans before tip-off. … Former Indiana University coach Kelvin Sampson, now an assistant with the Bucks, was booed by a small section of fans near the visiting bench before tip-off. Indiana is on probation from the NCAA because of a phone-call scandal involving Sampson.