Game Rewind: Pacers 119, Jazz 122 (OT)
Paul George had a career night and the Pacers staged a memorable rally, but it wasn’t quite enough to beat the Jazz in Utah. The Jazz (9-9) fought back from five points down in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, then held off Indiana (12-7) in the extra period, 122-119.
After an off night in Thursday’s loss to Portland, when he scored just 11 points and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts, George exploded for a career-high 48 points on Saturday night. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week made 15-of-27 shots, went 8-for-11 from 3-point range, and led the charge in the Pacers’ comeback from a 17-point second half deficit.
For plenty of moments late in the fourth quarter and even in overtime, it seemed as if the night would belong to George and the Pacers. But ultimately, it just wasn’t to be.
“We played well enough to win,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “…We just didn’t do enough. It hurts.”
The Jazz led by five at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 14-2 run, the exact same way they started the second half en route to a 21-point victory over the Pacers on Oct. 31 in Indianapolis. This time, however, Indiana didn’t fold.
George knocked down a couple 3-pointers, Rodney Stuckey and George Hill followed suit, and the Blue & Gold quickly climbed back. They closed the period with a 13-2 run to tie the game at 84.
“I thought we shared the ball,” George said of his team’s lightning-quick rally. “We moved it. We played with a lot more force. You know, we played together. It got us back in the game.”
The contest remained tight for much of the fourth quarter, but the Pacers seemingly took control down the stretch as George and Stuckey scored six points each over a three-minute stretch to turn a 96-96 tie into a 108-103 lead with 1:18 to play.
The Jazz, however, rallied to within one after Trevor Booker sank four of six free throws, aided in part by a clutch offensive rebound by former Butler star Gordon Hayward. George calmly knocked down two foul shots of his own with 15.8 seconds to play, but Alec Burks raced down the court on the ensuing inbound and found Derrick Favors, who hit a layup and drew a foul on Lavoy Allen.
Favors sank the free throw to tie the game with 10.6 seconds left and George missed a shot to win the game on the other end, sending the game to overtime.
The extra period was an exciting one, featuring five lead changes. Indiana moved in front, 119-118, on C.J. Miles’ fastbreak bucket with 1:02 left, but that would be the last time they scored on the evening.
Trey Burke hit what would prove to be the game-winning jumper on the next possession. Then, after a turnover by George, Favors banked in a shot to give the Jazz a three-point lead with 17.2 seconds to play.
The Pacers got off three shots that would have tied the game on their final possession, but none of them fell, and the Jazz escaped with the victory and the season sweep of Indiana.
“It really hurts,” George said of the loss. “Especially being up and winning and not taking care of business to close.”
In addition to George, four other Pacers players scored in double figures in the loss. Stuckey matched his season-high with 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Miles added 12, George Hill had 10, and Jordan Hill contributed 10 points and eight rebounds.
Favors led Utah with a career-best 35 points, going 14-for-24 from the field, and pulled in 13 rebounds. Hayward added 22 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Burke had 19 points and seven assists off the bench.
“I think this is a game where you scratch your head and wonder how we got back into it,” Hayward said. “But Fav was tremendous and carried us to the victory.”
Saturday’s loss concluded a four-game Western Conference road trip for the Pacers, who went 2-2 with wins over the Lakers and Clippers. The Blue & Gold now return to Indianapolis, where they will host the still-undefeated Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Warriors, 21-0 on the year, play in Brooklyn on Sunday before traveling to Indianapolis.
Inside the Numbers
George has now topped 40 points in two games this season (he scored 40 in a Nov. 24 win over Washington). He had only accomplished that feat once in five previous NBA seasons (scoring 43 on Dec. 2, 2013 in Portland). After Saturday, George joins Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook as the only NBA players with multiple 40-point games this season.
Aided heavily by George’s hot shooting night, the Pacers knocked down 12-of-29 3-point attempts (41.4 percent). It was the sixth time this season Indiana made at least a dozen threes, and the fifth time in their last eight games that they’ve pulled off the feat.
Both Miles and Monta Ellis, Indiana’s second and fourth-leading scorers on the year, struggled from the field on Saturday. Miles made just 2-of-10 shots, while Ellis was 2-for-11.
After starting the year 9-1 when scoring 100 or more points, the Pacers have now dropped two straight contests in which they (easily) topped the century mark.
You Can Quote Me On That
“It was just one of those games. Stay aggressive, stay relentless in his attack of the basket and keep playing his pull-up game and catch-and-shoot.” -Vogel on his message to George after he struggled from the field on Thursday in Portland
“We have that kind of fire power. We never feel like we’re out of a game. The guys kept committing at the defensive end and trusting our offense.” -Vogel on Indiana’s third-quarter comeback
“It would have been nice if we would have extended our lead from 15 to 25 and blew them out of the gym. But, we’ll take this one, too. Makes it more exciting for the fans.” -Hayward
“It was one of those games that we needed. We dropped two games. We had a tough one to Golden State and a tough one against Orlando. I didn’t play as good as I could have against Orlando, so I just took it upon myself to go out there and be a leader and get us going on offense and defense.” -Favors
Stat of the Night
The Jazz won this game on the offensive glass. Utah outrebounded Indiana 54-44 overall and 19-12 on the offensive end.
Favors had seven offensive boards and Booker collected six for the hosts, who were +12 on the night in second chance points.
“It’s a team effort,” George said of the Pacers’ struggles on the glass. “We did not do a great job of boxing out. They got a guy like Booker, who hangs his hat on being a force down there. We cannot leave that as a one-on-one battle. We should have helped out and done a better job on that.”
by Wheat Hotchkiss