The forward sat out Wednesday with strep throat, but he recovered and had 21 points and 17 rebounds in a 123-115 win over the Nets Friday. The Pacers halted a two-game losing skid to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Murphy was inactive in the Pacers' 124-117 loss at New Jersey on Wednesday.
"We really missed him the other night," O'Brien said. "He's playing at a really high level."
Murphy has averaged 18.1 points and 11.4 rebounds in his past seven games, and the Pacers have won five of them.
"He's just been great for us," Danny Granger, who led the Pacers with 26 points against the Nets, said. "He's a solid 3-point shooter, he can attack any big man in the league and he rebounds. He's been helping us a lot."
The Pacers remained 2½ games behind Atlanta for the eighth playoff spot in the East. New Jersey fell to 1½ games behind the Hawks.
"It was an important win for us," Murphy said. "We needed to get this one. We fumbled around and didn't play well in New Jersey."
"They got us rushing a little bit, but we just didn't make the plays that we needed in order to win," Carter said.
Before the game, O'Brien said he wasn't happy with any of his players' defense. He changed his tune after Indiana held New Jersey to 8-for-24 shooting in the fourth quarter.
"We defended at a really high level in the second half," he said. "I thought our defense won this game for us."
Indiana opened the second half on an 8-0 run, including two 3-pointers by Murphy, to take a 64-63 lead. The lead seesawed throughout the period until Travis Diener hit a mid-range jumper in the closing seconds to give the Pacers a 92-91 lead heading into the fourth. Carter scored 17 points in the quarter, and Granger had 12.
Dunleavy made a short jumper, then a 3-pointer at the start of the fourth to give the Pacers a 97-91 lead.
New Jersey closed to within 104-102, but back-to-back buckets in close by Daniels made it 108-102 with 2:40 to play.
Granger fouled out with 1:47 to go, and Carter made two free throws after the foul to cut Indiana's lead to four. Granger's replacement, Kareem Rush, hit a 3-pointer with 1:19 to play to boost Indiana's lead to 112-104.
"We did not do a very good job down the stretch," Nets forward Richard Jefferson said. "They hit a lot of shots. Every game this time of year is big. This was just another team in the hunt. It's going to come down to the very last game of the season."
The Pacers led by 14 points in the second quarter, then went cold. The Nets closed the half on a 28-7 run to lead 63-56 at the break. The Pacers often have lost after building big leads this season, but the prevented it this time by shooting 51 percent in the second half.
"We're growing as a team," Granger said. "It might be real late in the season to be doing it, but better late than never."
The Pacers shot 14-for-25 from 3-point range in the game to earn a split in the season series. New Jersey knew it wasted an opportunity by letting the Pacers shoot so well from the outside.
"The difference from the other night was we didn't defend like we need to," Carter said. "It comes down to our defense sometimes being good, sometimes not so good."
Indiana closes with a favorable schedule. Six of the Pacers' final nine games are against teams with losing records, and four are at home, including an April 8 game against Atlanta.
"We must continue to play at this level and not let up," Murphy said. "On the next two or three days, we need to relax, keep our game faces on and get ready for the rest of the season. We will take them game by game."
- Indiana F Jermaine O'Neal said he expects to be ready to play early next week after missing 33 straight games with a bone bruise on his left knee.
- Dunleavy tipped in a shot by a New Jersey player in the third quarter. It was credited to Boone.
- Harris averaged 24.3 points and 9.7 assists in three games against the Pacers this season.
- The Pacers are 5-3 with Flip Murray as their starting point guard.