Mike Dunleavy knew the New Orleans Hornets didn’t want Danny Granger to beat them, so he took care of it himself.
Article continues below ...
Dunleavy’s tip-in of Granger’s miss at the buzzer gave the Indiana Pacers a 94-93 victory on Monday night.
”I could see Chris Paul going to help out on Danny, so I just took off to the basket,” Dunleavy said. ”Luckily, the ball ended up in a perfect position for me to tip it in.”
The Hornets had taken the lead on a jumper by David West with 3.9 seconds left. Granger’s 21-footer rattled and rolled around the rim, and Dunleavy was uncontested for the rebound under the hoop. The officials reviewed the play and the basket stood.
Granger drew the extra attention because he led the Pacers with 27 points. Darren Collison scored 18 points and James Posey added 15 in their first game against the team that traded them in the offseason.
Collison acknowledged that playing New Orleans gave him personal incentive, but winning was his main focus.
”That’s all we need to do is to get the victory,” he said. ”We know how tough the playoff race is ahead of us. It’s a long season. In order for us to stay on top of our game, we need to start winning some games down the stretch.”
Posey made 5-of-7 3-pointers, with several coming in clutch situations that changed momentum.
”That is James Posey,” Collison said, with emphasis on the name. ”That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Posey’s outburst came in 19 minutes.
”I just try to stay ready whenever coach calls and try to take advantage of those situations, and I was able to get some good looks,” he said.
Dunleavy scored just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Emeka Okafor had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Hornets, who lost their sixth straight road game. West scored 18 points and Paul added 15.
The Hornets said they executed poorly on defense in the final seconds. They had a foul to give and never used it.
”We’ve always felt this roster was built for times like this,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. ”I’m saying tough stuff, Chris (Paul) is saying the tough stuff. We need other guys to step up.”
Paul missed a jumper as time expired on the shot clock in the final minute, but West scored on a putback and was fouled with 30 seconds left. He made the free throw to put New Orleans up 91-89.
Indiana responded with a 3-pointer by Posey on an assist from Granger to take a 92-91 lead with 16 seconds left.
”I’ve got to give Danny credit,” Posey said. ”He made an extra pass. We’ve got a great group of guys that are very unselfish.”
Paul drove on T.J. Ford and found West near the free throw line, where he made a jumper with 3.9 seconds left to give the Hornets a 93-92 lead before Dunleavy’s game winner.
Indiana led by as many as 13 points late in the first half before the Hornets rallied to cut their deficit to six points. Collison found Posey beyond the left elbow, and Posey drained a 3-pointer to give Indiana a 52-43 lead at the break. The Pacers made 6-of-12 3-pointers in the first half.
New Orleans inched closer early in the third quarter. Paul hesitated, then drained a 3-pointer that cut Indiana’s lead to 62-61 and caused the Pacers to call a timeout. The Hornets finally took the lead on a pair of free throws by Paul with 31 seconds left in the period.
Collison began to take control midway through the fourth quarter. He made a jumper to give Indiana an 81-77 lead. A short time later, he got a steal, then assisted on a dunk by Granger. On the other end, Collison’s rebound ignited a fast break that eventually led to a dunk by Roy Hibbert that gave Indiana an 85-79 lead.
New Orleans came right back with a run that included a 3-pointer by Jarrett Jack. A pair of free throws by West gave New Orleans an 86-85 lead, and neither team led by more than two points the rest of the way.
”You have to take your hats off to the Pacers,” Jack said. ”They kept fighting. But if we don’t put ourselves in that hole in the first half and at the beginning of the game, when we are supposed to jump on teams like we normally do, then we don’t get put in that position.”
Indiana, which already had wins over Denver, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers this season, talked in the locker room like a team that expects to beat top competition.
”We’re still trying to get back to .500 and keep moving on up,” Posey said. ”Today was another step. ”We know if we play our style of basketball for four quarters, we always give ourselves that chance to win. We’ve just got to keep going out there and working hard and just keep getting better.”
Notes: New Orleans guard Willie Green missed the game for personal reasons. His sister and cousin were killed in an automobile accident after Sunday’s game in Detroit. The Pacers held a moment of silence before the game. … Pacers C Jeff Foster made his second consecutive start at power forward. Regular starter Josh McRoberts has been dealing with a lower abdominal strain.