Granger continues breakout season with buzzer-beating 3 to thwart Suns

PHOENIX -- The Indiana Pacers are making a habit of beating the NBA's elite teams, and Danny Granger is making a habit of scoring big.

Granger hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer and had 37 points in Indiana's 113-110 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

With the score tied and 0.9 seconds left, Mike Dunleavy inbounded the ball to Granger and he connected, thwarting a furious Phoenix comeback.

It was the third straight game that Granger scored at least 35 points. He had 35 and 36 in his previous two games.

The win ended Indiana's seven-game losing streak to the Suns and prevented Phoenix from posting its first four-game winning streak of the season.

Despite a 13-22 record, Indiana has beaten the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and now the Suns.

With Granger holding the hot hand throughout the game, the final play was designed for him.

"It was exactly what we drew up," Dunleavy said. "We went to the first option and Danny was the main option and he just stepped back there and drilled it. It was a great shot by him. To win a game like that is like a cherry on a sundae."

Granger agreed with Dunleavy on the play provided by coach Jim O'Brien.

"Coach drew up a great play," Granger said. "We ran some people around and I ran away and I popped to the top and got a good look. When I got that open look, I let it go. I'm always confident it's going in the hole. I got two screens and made the shot. This is a big momentum-builder for us."

Granger tied it at 110 with a 20-foot jumper from behind the key with 34.9 seconds remaining. The Suns had taken the lead for the first time on Leandro Barbosa's 3-pointer with 45.4 seconds left.

Dunleavy scored 14 points for the Pacers in his first game this season. Stephen Graham had 13, Troy Murphy 12, Jarret Jack 11 and Rasho Nesterovic 10.

Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Grant Hill and Barbosa had 18 apiece, Steve Nash and Jason Richardson added 16 each, and Louis Amundson had a career-high 14 rebounds and nine points. Nash also had 12 assists.

"We haven't had much luck with last-second shots, game-winners, walk-off game-winners this year," Suns coach Terry Porter said. "We seem to be snake-bitten."

Porter said the Suns' lack of communication on the final play was costly.

"We talked about switching everything and somehow we had two guys going with the curl guy [under the basket], and he [Granger] popped," Porter added. "Steve [Nash] saw him and popped out, but we just didn't do a good job communicating. Granger made a heck of a shot."

Shaquille O'Neal, the Suns' starting center and one of their leading scorers and rebounders, missed the game with back spasms. It was the first game the 7-foot-1, 325-pound O'Neal sat out with an injury this season. He had missed five previous games, including three on the first night of back-to-backs.

The Pacers also were playing short-handed, missing starting guards T.J. Ford (sore lower back) and Marquis Daniels (strained left groin).

Phoenix got off to a miserable start, hitting one of its first 12 shots in the first 7:44 and Indiana took advantage. Granger scored 19 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers, and the Pacers built a 42-27 cushion in the second quarter. But the Suns, behind Stoudemire, battled back and reduced the deficit to 61-57 at halftime. Stoudemire finished the half with 17 points, including 9-of-9 shooting from the foul line.

Amundson came off the bench and provided a spark for the Suns. He ended the half with 11 rebounds to equal a career best -- eight on the offensive boards. He also had nine points.

Dunleavy, who had been sidelined all season with an ailing left knee, helped the Pacers with eight points.

The Pacers capitalized on O'Neal's absence underneath, scoring 30 points in the paint in the first half. At that time, their three big men -- Roy Hibbert, Jeff Foster and Rasho Nesterovic -- had combined for 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Indiana came out sizzling in the third quarter, and with Murphy connecting on four 3-pointers, padded its advantage to 16 points twice. This time, the Suns did not respond as well as in the first half, trimming the lead to 95-86 after the period. Only 10 points by Richardson in the quarter kept the Suns relatively close.

Game notes
The teams began the game with some contrasting statistics: The Suns led the NBA in field-goal percentage but were 26th in foul shooting, while the Pacers were No. 1 in overall rebounding percentage, but 28th in team defense. ... Before facing Indiana, the Suns had played only four games in 17 days. ... O'Neal has seven 20-point games this season; one more would equal his total for 2007-08. ... The Suns are 34-16 with O'Neal in the lineup since acquiring him last season. ... The Pacers are in the midst of their longest road trip of the season. After losing to Denver on Monday night and playing Phoenix, they are at the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State and Utah before returning home next Wednesday.