They are the target on every other team's schedule. At 46-13,
they have the best record in the league. And to keep it that way,
they will have more than a handful of battles on their hands.
Forward David West helped the Pacers survive another near upset
Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, scoring a game-high 25
points in a 94-91 victory over the Utah Jazz. The Pacers rallied
from a 12-point deficit to win their fifth straight game, all over
teams in the bottom half of the NBA.
"We're getting everybody's best game from now on," said West, who
crashed hard to the floor during a scoring attempt in the second
half but remained in the game. "We accept that."
Forward Paul George added 22 points for Indiana. West and George
combined for 21 points in the third quarter, when a 13-3 run helped
the Pacers take the lead for good.
Utah (21-38), the last-place team in the Northwest Division, almost
forced the Pacers into overtime. Indianapolis native Gordon Hayward,
who was a star at Butler University when Boston Celtics coach Brad
Stevens was the coach at Butler, missed a 3-point shot as the buzzer
sounded. The ball rattled off the rim and bounced away.
"I wanted that one. It was close. It looked good from my angle. I
just back-rimmed it," Hayward said.
Hayward, who played in front of a large group of friends and family,
led the Jazz with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He scored 16 of
those points in the second half when the Pacers pulled ahead by
eight but the Jazz fought back to make it a one-possession game in
the final minute.
"I'm proud of the way we fought," Hayward said. "We could have given
up. We gave ourselves a shot, gave ourselves a look."
"I thought the focus, especially on the defensive end tonight, was
really, really good," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It gave us a
chance to win the ballgame."
Utah center Derrick Favors added 17 points and had a game-high 10
rebounds. He scored 11 points in the first half, when the Jazz took
a 12-point lead, stunning the home crowd. Guard Trey Burke added 16
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Favors' job on the boards led to a 44-42 rebounding advantage for
Pacers guard C.J. Watson, starting in place of George Hill (bruised
shoulder), added 13 points and guard Lance Stephenson had 11.
The Pacers were facing a team in the NBA's bottom half for the fifth
consecutive game, and, as in the previous four games, the Pacers
struggled. Frustration surfaced in the third quarter when George was
whistled for a technical foul. George slammed the ball to the court
and complained when a foul was called on a play when George thought
the Pacers had stolen the ball.
The Pacers won all five of those games, but the last three have come
by an average winning margin of less than five points.
"Sometimes guys get hot, teams play well. Teams are circling our
name on their schedule," West said. "All these games are going to be
this way. We know we're going to get everybody's best shot."
On Saturday, the Pacers held on to defeat the Celtics by five points
in Boston, then arrived in Indianapolis at 4 a.m.
"I'm really, really proud of our guys for pulling out a game under
difficult circumstances, getting in at 4 a.m., overcoming in-game
adversity with our starting point guard out and foul trouble (Roy
Hibbert had two early fouls) and having to use two timeouts for
injured players," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "This was a mental
NOTES: Pacers G George Hill sat out for the second game in a row due
to a bruised shoulder. He injured the shoulder in Thursday's 101-96
win over Milwaukee. ... Pacers G Evan Turner, who joined the club on
Feb. 20 in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, averaged 12.6 ppg in
his first three games with the Pacers. While Hill is out, Turner is
a back-up point guard to C.J. Watson. "I like what he's doing. He's
giving us a big lift, a spark, so to speak," Pacers coach Frank
Vogel said. ... Jazz G/F Gordon Hayward, an Indianapolis native and
former star at Butler University, made his only Indy appearance of
the season in Sunday's game. He received loud cheers when introduced
as a starter. ... An eight-inch snowstorm and temperatures in the
20s greeted the Jazz for the second contest of a season-long,
six-game road trip covering more than 4,000 miles.
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