Pacers edge Bulls, tighten race for last East playoff spot
T.J. Ford's go-ahead jumper allowed the Indiana Pacers to keep dreaming about making the NBA playoffs.
Ford's shot with 3.9 seconds left gave the Pacers a 107-105 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night to tighten the race for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
All-Star Danny Granger, who scored 31 points, had built a reputation this season for making clutch shots. Despite that, the Pacers knew they were going to their point guard.
Ford worked the shot clock down, then drove left against Chicago rookie Derrick Rose before hitting the fadeaway from near the free-throw line.
"I think everybody on the team knew the play was called for the last shot, and I was pretty much going to take it unless they helped," Ford said. "I was able to get to my spot and elevate up and make the shot."
Rose felt he guarded Ford well.
"He made a fallaway jump shot," he said. "That's what you want people to take at the end."
Chicago had a chance to tie or win, but Ben Gordon missed a long shot that was signaled as a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
"We knew he was probably going to get the ball and luckily I got the switch on him," Granger said. "We made it difficult for him to get the shot off."
The Pacers trailed by eight points in the fourth quarter, but rallied and played like a team whose season was on the line. Indiana won for the fourth time in five games and is 3 1/2 games behind Chicago with seven games left.
"Just trying to win, man, just trying to win," Ford said. "We don't want to give up. People are still coming out to support us and we want to put on a show. I don't think anybody is playing to lose."
Ford finished with 22 points and nine assists as a reserve. He has started 49 games this season.
"For me, if they want me to be the sixth man, that's fine," Ford said. "The only thing you can ask for is to be productive and still be able to play effective minutes."
Troy Murphy had 15 points and 12 rebounds after missing the previous three games with a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Rose had 24 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, Kirk Hinrich had 20 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, and Tyrus Thomas added 20 points for the Bulls.
The Bulls were unhappy with their performance in the fourth quarter.
"It's disturbing," Gordon said. "We've been doing a poor job of closing games out all year. This was a game we definitely needed. It was definitely a winnable game. It was definitely disappointing."
Chicago led 103-100 and could have been up by more, but didn't take advantage and failed to score on its next three possessions. Granger scored on a putback to make it 103-102, then the Pacers forced Chicago into a shot clock violation.
Indiana worked the ball to Granger again, and he drained a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left to give Indiana its first lead of the quarter.
Gordon responded with a fallaway jumper from the free-throw line to tie the score with 38 seconds left.
Indiana worked for a shot, and Murphy missed, but the ball went out of bounds off a Chicago player, giving the Pacers a new 24-second clock with 26 seconds to play. That sequence set up Ford's game-winner.
The Bulls led 52-50 at halftime, but the Pacers opened the half with a flurry that included a 3-pointer and a reverse dunk by Murphy to take a 59-54 lead with just over 8 minutes left in the quarter.
Chicago rallied, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Tim Thomas and Hinrich gave the Bulls a 69-63 lead.
Josh McRoberts' two-handed baseline jam in the final second of the third quarter cut Chicago's advantage to 79-76.
A two-handed dunk and a layup by Tyrus Thomas increased Chicago's lead to 85-78. Indiana rallied again, and a 3-pointer by Granger trimmed the Bulls' lead to 87-85 and caused Chicago to call a timeout.
Chicago responded with a 12-6 run during which four different Bulls scored to take a 99-91 lead.
The Bulls fell apart from there, but they gave the Pacers credit, too.
"It was just a good team that kept on battling," Rose said. "We had the game and just let it go."
The Pacers still will be hard-pressed to reach the postseason, but they will play with hope the rest of the way.
"It might not be enough to get to the playoffs, but I think in the long run, if we don't make it this year, we are doing a lot of positive things right now," Granger said.
Granger and Hinrich collided in the opening minutes of the game, and both left the game. They both returned late in the quarter with stitches, Granger's over his left eye and Hinrich's over his right. ... Indiana's Marquis Daniels sat out with a sprained right wrist. ... McRoberts tied a career high with 10 points.