Game Rewind: Pacers 103, Rockets 107 (OT)
Sunday’s Pacers game followed an all-too-familiar script. For the fourth time this season and the third time in the last two weeks, the Pacers (21-16) dropped an overtime contest on the road, falling to the Houston Rockets (19-19), 107-103.
Indiana is now 0-4 on the year in overtime games, having lost on Dec. 5 in Utah, Dec. 30 in Chicago, and Jan. 4 in Miami. Sunday’s loss bookended a week that started with Monday’s overtime loss to the Heat, but also included wins in Orlando and New Orleans. The end result: a 2-2 road trip that could very easily have been 4-0.
“We have to figure out how to close out these games,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the loss. “There is no consolation prize for losing close games. We have to figure out ways on how to finish.”
Indiana led by double digits with just five minutes to play on Sunday, but the Rockets reeled off a 12-1 run and cut their deficit to just 89-88 on Trevor Ariza’s 3-pointer with 2:58 remaining.
Monta Ellis answered with a jump shot on the other end and, after an offensive foul by Dwight Howard, Ian Mahinmi converted a hook shot to push the Pacers’ lead back to five.
The Rockets rallied once again. A pair of James Harden free throws made it 93-90 with 1:45 to play. After neither team managed to score for the next several possessions, Ariza sent the crowd into hysterics when he finally tied the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 17.1 seconds remaining.
Monta Ellis had a shot to win the game at the buzzer, but he couldn’t get his 18-foot jumper to fall.
The Pacers seized control early in the extra period by attacking the basket. Indiana scored on its first three possessions, as George Hill, Rodney Stuckey, and Paul George took turns getting to the rim for layups.
Houston clawed back, eventually tying the game at 99 on Howard’s basket with 1:47 to play, setting off a wild sequence.
Ellis buried a jumper to put the Pacers back in front, but Ariza answered with a three on the other end to give the Rockets their first lead of the overtime. Ellis again buried a jumper to make it a 103-102 Indiana lead, only to have Corey Brewer knock down a triple on the ensuing possession to give Houston the lead once more.
The Pacers had two chances to tie in the final 40 seconds, but Ellis missed a pair of floaters, the latter of which resulted in a Rockets run-out and a dunk for Ariza that sealed the victory for Houston.
“The difference was, they made the shots they needed to, and we missed ours,” Ellis said. “Down the stretch, the ball stopped falling for us.”
George led Indiana with 20 points, six rebounds, four assists, and a career-high seven steals. His stellar defense helped the Pacers force Houston into 23 turnovers on the evening, which they converted into 38 points.
Hill, Stuckey, and Mahinmi each added 13 points for the Blue & Gold. Ellis had 11 points and also dished out a season-high 13 assists in the loss.
The Rockets had gotten off to a hot start on Sunday, hitting their first four shots while jumping out to a 10-3 lead. Houston led by as many as nine points, staying in front until the final two minutes of the second quarter.
Indiana finally surged ahead with an 11-2 run late in the second quarter that featured three 3-pointers, two by Hill and one by C.J. Miles. Hill’s triple from the left corner gave the Blue & Gold a 47-45 lead with 1:37 to play. Miles’ trifecta two possessions later stretched the Pacers’ lead to five points before James Harden answered with a 3-pointer of his own.
The Pacers really began to take control when George came alive in the third quarter. PG scored 14 points in the period, burying three 3-pointers. The two-time All-Star scored Indiana’s final eight points in the quarter to stretch the Blue & Gold’s lead to 13.
Ariza led all scorers with 24 points, going 5-for-9 from 3-point range.
“If the shots are going in or not, he still plays hard,” Harden said about Ariza’s play. “Tonight, he had a tough match in Paul George, and then he made some big shots. (He) lead the team in scoring after guarding another guy on defense shows a lot of character about the guy.”
Harden, the NBA’s second-leading scorer, himself nearly had a triple-double. The bearded lefty finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists. Howard was also excellent for Houston, tallying 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and 17 boards.
Their four-game jaunt across the Gulf Coast now complete, the Pacers head back to Indianapolis for a game on Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns.
Inside the Numbers
Thanks in large part to Ellis, the Pacers finished with a season-high 33 assists, five more than their previous best this year. Indiana had collected 28 assists as a team on three occasions.
Houston’s 23 turnovers were the most by a Pacers opponent since the Blue & Gold forced Milwaukee into 23 giveaways on Nov. 21.
Despite the loss and Howard’s big night, Indiana outscored the Rockets in the paint, 56-44. It was just the fourth time in 16 games this season that the Pacers had more points in the paint but still lost.
George’s seven steals were not only a career high, it was just the 10th time a Pacers player had recorded seven or more steals in a game in the last 30 years. Micheal Williams accomplished the feat five times from 1991-92, while Jamaal Tinsley was the last to pull it off on Nov. 19, 2004.
You Can Quote Me On That
“We traded baskets after the third quarter and into the fourth quarter, we got stagnant and we didn’t stick with what wasn’t working. It’s the same story, every game for us.” -George
“They made plays down the stretch and got a lot of great looks at the basket and made plays. We made all the plays early, but our run didn’t last long enough to win the game.” -Hill
“We looked to put the ball in our best playmaker’s hands and go to the basket. Monta went to the basket several times and finished a few times. You tell these guys to go to the basket, at the end of the game, because you put pressure on the officials to blow the whistle, the whistle didn’t blow but those are the breaks.” -Vogel on giving the ball to Ellis at the end of regulation and overtime.
by Wheat Hotchkiss