for this game

Pacers win their half of home-and-home, down Nets

Mar 29, 2008 - 4:26 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- After the second meeting between the New Jersey Nets and Indiana Pacers in three days, the only team that may be breathing a bit easier is the Atlanta Hawks.

Danny Granger scored 26 points and Troy Murphy added 21 and 17 rebounds for the Pacers, who held serve on their end of a home-and-home series with the Nets with a 123-115 victory on Friday.

While the win allows Indiana (30-43) to keep pace - 2 1/2 games back in the Eastern Conference playoff chase for the eighth spot with Atlanta (32-40) - the loss sent New Jersey (31-42) into a 1 1/2-game hole.

"Every game counts," Pacers guard Kareem Rush said. "New Jersey beat us a couple nights ago and we wanted revenge on that. We know we got to win every game to get in the playoffs."

The mood was more somber in the Nets' locker room.

"Every loss at this time of the year is big, just like every win is big," said New Jersey forward Richard Jefferson, who finished with 19 points. "It's going to come down to the very last game of the season."

Much like the Nets did in their win over the Pacers on Wednesday at the IZOD Center, the Pacers blew a big lead early on before collecting their wits in a win they very much needed.

"It was an important win for us; we needed to get this one," Murphy said. "We fumbled around and didn't play well in New Jersey (Wednesday), and we needed to get this win."

Mike Dunleavy, who hit four 3-pointers in the first half alone, drained the final one to give the Pacers a seemingly comfortable 49-35 lead at the 6:50 mark of the first half.

However, that was when Harris got going, scoring 14 points during a half-ending 28-8 run which left the Nets ahead, 63-56, at intermission.

Indiana responded with the first 10 points of the third period, including two 3-pointers from Murphy, to retake a four-point advantage.

But the Pacers had no answer for Vince Carter, who had 17 points in the third and combined with Marcus Williams to score the final 14 for the Nets to help New Jersey to take a brief 91-90 lead until Travis Diener nailed a long jumper with three seconds left in the quarter.

Dunleavy, who was kept quiet right after the break, resumed his torrid long-range shooting to begin the fourth, hitting two consecutive long jumpers to give Indiana a six-point cushion.

"It comes down to our defense sometimes being good, sometimes not so good," Carter said.

After Trenton Hassell scored to cut the deficit to four, Shawne Williams and David Harrison each scored in the paint to push the advantage out to 101-93.

A free throw from Marquis Daniels extended the lead to nine with 6:01 remaining, prompting a 9-2 run by the Nets to close to within 104-102 on a free throw by Josh Boone.

But Granger and Daniels helped the Pacers maintain the lead down the stretch, allowing Rush to dash any comeback hopes when he drilled a shot from the arc with 1:19 remaining to give Indiana a 112-104 advantage.

"The shot was there, and my team counts on me to knock down open shots," Rush said. "That's my job."

Carter finished with 33 points and Harris added 27 for the Nets, who fell to 12-24 on the road.

"We have to give credit to Indiana," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "They had a real good rhythm and pace."

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