A familiar sight in the form of a fourth quarter collapse nearly struck the Indiana Pacers dead again, but just enough resiliency and quality free throw shooting kept the Utah Jazz from pulling out an unlikely win, despite Indiana's best efforts to give it away. The Pacers followed an almost identical blueprint to failure that they drew up last night against the Lakers with an inability to close quarters erasing a quality first quarter.
Indiana started hot, using a 9-0 run and an 11-0 run as part of a 31-15 first quarter dominated by Roy Hibbert and C.J. Miles. Hibbert had eight in the quarter and Miles scored 11, hitting all three of his three pointers in the first quarter. Though in a similar story to last night, the Jazz were able to keep the Pacers from really opening the game up, holding the Indiana lead to 19 late in the second.
The Jazz put together a 6-0 run in the final two minutes to trim the lead to 12 before a frustrated David West bucket moved the score to 53-39 at the break. The Jazz were able to lop five points off the lead thanks to a pair of turnovers forced and two blocked shots late. In the third, it was Dante Exum putting in Utah's first two three pointers of the night to cut the lead to 10, keeping the game within reach after a Pacers run thanks yet again to a strong close to a quarter.
Rudy Gobert scored six as part of a 7-2 run to close the quarter that put Utah in the win column for the second straight quarter. The play of the Jazz continued into the fourth as Utah drew all the way to within four points at 78-74 with 7:58 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Donald Sloan pulled up for a crucial run stopping three, one that allowed Indiana to run off an 8-0 run to move the game back to double figures.
The teams would trade baskets as the time wound down, making a Pacers victory look more and more inevitable, but Utah continued to force Indiana's hand, cutting the lead to 10 and then to eight time and time again. Poor fundamentals began to catch up to the Pacers, who not only failed to rebound with any consistency, but began to foul the Jazz at will.
In the final 70 seconds, the Jazz shot an absurd eight free throws, including two three point plays and a three pointer that allowed Utah to bring the score to 101-100 with under 10 seconds remaining. A rare miss at the line for Gordon Hayward would set up Solomon Hill with the chance to ice the game, doing so and allowing Indiana to escape with a 105-101 victory.
Indiana came away with a rare close victory and did so in equally rare fashion: winning at the free throw line. Indiana was 28-30 from the charity stripe, not only getting to the line frequently, but actually converting with contributions from the entire team. No one reached the line more than six times, making 30 free throws and 28 makes a pleasant surprise. Luis Scola even hit his two.
The Pacers controlled the game most of the way. They shot over 50% most of the game while holding Utah under 40%, but the fourth quarter, in which the Jazz outscored Indiana 39-31, balanced the shooting differences. Utah opened up in fast break opportunities (19-8) and points in the paint (48-30) to help cue the late comeback as the Pacers allowed 14 offensive rebounds.
Roy Hibbert played another tremendous game against Utah, scoring a team high 22 points and a team high eight rebounds. Hibbert would foul out with a minute remaining while continuing to be a little testy with another technical after Rudy Gobert shoved him in the back.
Indiana's bench outscored Utah's bench 38-18, led by Luis Scola and C.J. Miles. Miles was largely a non-factor after his big first quarter, but came up with two clutch free throws late. Scola was solid shooting with 16 points on 7-9 from the floor. Lavoy Allen was a dreadful 1-8, but played a key role late on the defensive end with Donald Sloan scoring just six, but hitting a key three pointer to kick off Indiana's fourth quarter run.
Rodney Stuckey suffered a groin injury on Indiana's first defensive possession, but returned to score 13 points, coming up with a pair of steals. Solomon Hill also had two steals, both during Indiana's fourth quarter run, that put four points on the board. In his return to action, C.J. Watson had a pair of three pointers. David West reached double figures with 10 points and six assists.
The Pacers managed to avoid choking away a second straight game against a bad opponent, but without George Hill to create some room for error, Indiana will continue to find themselves in tough situations late in games. But the win tonight guarantees Indiana at least a .500 split in this four game road trip, a fairly nice positive considering a massively tall order will be facing Indiana on Wednesday when they face the league's best team in the Golden State Warriors.