Indiana (39-34), which lost on the road to 21-win Brooklyn on
Saturday night, led Houston (36-38) by 16 points in the third
quarter, trailed by five in the fourth quarter and somehow found a
method to scratch out a 104-101 victory.
Paul George had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Monta Ellis added 23
points and Ian Mahinmi had 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Pacers
Houston's Jason Terry had a chance to force overtime, but his
3-point attempt from the right wing was short as time expired.
"This was exactly the kind of game we expected," said Mahinmi, whose
19 points tied his career high. "We felt really bad about the loss
Saturday (at Brooklyn), and we knew we had to have this one tonight.
A big thing right now is that we are still learning to play with
each other, and we are getting better."
Mahinmi and Ellis each made one of two free throws in the final 11.7
seconds to help the Pacers hold onto the seventh spot in the Eastern
Conference playoff picture. Indiana is a half-game ahead of the
eighth-place Detroit Pistons, who were idle Sunday.
"After Houston came back and made it a game, we finally did a good
job of taking control again at the end," George said.
James Harden poured in 34 points to lead the Rockets (36-38). Trevor
Ariza had 14 points, and Dwight Howard added 11 points and 10
Houston remains a half-game ahead of Dallas for eighth place in the
Western Conference playoff race after the Mavericks also lost
"Those 3-pointers are the shots we are comfortable taking," said
Ariza, who was 2 of 8 from beyond the arc. "If the shots are not
there, we want to keep moving the ball and look for a better shot."
The Rockets, who lost their fourth consecutive road game, made only
7 of 33 shots from 3-point range (21.2 percent), their second-worst
3-point shooting percentage this season.
"They missed some open 3-pointers, but overall, I thought our
3-point defense was good," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "They
hurt us and got back in the game in the third quarter when they went
small, and James Harden really got going."
A George 3-pointer gave the Pacers a 93-92 lead with 5:43 to play,
but Harden answered immediately, pushing the Rockets back in front
Indiana clung to an 81-79 lead through three quarters, but baskets
from Harden and Ariza gave the Rockets an 83-81 advantage with 10:44
[to top of second column]
Trailing by 16, Houston used a 16-3 run to close to within 70-67 on
a Harden 3-pointer with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter. Another
Harden 3-pointer tied it at 70 with 3:32 left in the quarter.
"This team defends the 3-point line well," Rockets coach J.B.
Bickerstaff said of the Pacers. "They force you into taking coverage
shots because their length allows them to cover a lot of ground to
cover and contest. I thought we got looks we wanted, but always in
those situations, you want to put pressure on the rims. But the
Pacers do a great job protecting the paint."
A 3-pointer from George Hill and a steal and layup from Ellis
extended the Indiana lead to 67-51 with 7:57 remaining in the third
quarter, prompting a Houston timeout. At that point, the Rockets
were 2-for-20 from 3-point range.
"Tonight, we needed contributions from everybody to win this game,"
said Vogel, noting that the Pacers were playing the second of a back
to back. "I thought Solomon Hill came off the bench and gave us some
good minutes when Houston went with its small lineup."
Solomon Hill played only 15:30 but had two points, five rebounds,
three assists and two steals and played excellent defense against
the Rockets' perimeter players.
George scored 16 first-half points, and C.J. Miles came off the
bench to add 10, helping Indiana seize a 57-47 lead through 24
The Rockets, who got 10 first-half points from Harden, missed 14 of
their first 15 attempts from 3-point range and finished the opening
two quarters 2-for-18 from long distance.
Indiana led 30-24 after the first quarter and increased its
advantage to 55-42 on a Mahinmi layup with 1:41 remaining in the
half before the Rockets closed within 10 at intermission.
The Pacers outshot the Rockets 47.1 percent to 44.7 percent overall,
and Indiana posted a 50-44 rebounding edge.
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