In stringing together a third straight win for the first time this season, the Indiana Pacers looked anything but up for the task early, surrendering a 15-0 run to the Charlotte Hornets in the first quarter, breaking up a 12-12 tie and putting the Pacers in a double digit hole they'd struggle to fight against throughout the first half. So it was no surprise the listless Pacers found themselves trailing 56-39 at the break.
Out of the half, the Pacers scored the first seven points to trim the lead to 10, climbing to nine points, before surrendering another big run to the Hornets, this time 13-2, and falling behind 21 at 76-55. Indiana showed life once again out of the timeout, responding with a 10-0 run in 93 seconds, using another 6-0 run late to close the third quarter deficit to eight as they entered the fourth quarter down 83-75.
An 11-3 fourth quarter start for the Pacers tied the game at 86-86, but it wasn't until a minute later when a C.J. Watson floater put Indiana into the lead 89-88. The lead would be short lived, however, when a 7-2 Hornets run would put them on top 95-91 halfway through the quarter. Al Jefferson would push the lead to five with four minutes remaining, as both teams struggled to put the ball in the hoop.
Eventually, it was Watson again, who hit a corner three to cut the lead to one, with free throws from David West and Luis Scola putting Indiana on top again 101-99 with 23 seconds remaining. On the following possession, it was Marvin Williams hitting a straight on three to give Charlotte a 102-101 advantage. On Indiana's final possession, the Pacers gave it to George Hill, who drive in, made a fake, shaking Cody Zeller, and putting in the game winning layup, giving the Pacers a come from behind 103-102 victory.
The win was Indiana's third straight, the first time they've achieved that all season. They did so with a big second half, not only the 21 point comeback, but another fourth quarter comeback, and a 36-point third quarter. In the second half, Indiana outscored Charlotte 64-46, pulling their shooting percentage up to 44% for the game.
The Pacers got a big boost from their bench in the second half, led by C.J. Watson with 22 points, including five three pointers and 13 points in the fourth. Watson got help from Luis Scola, who scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. All of Scola's points came in the second half to help Indiana's bench outscore Charlotte's 53-32. Shayne Whittington pitched in four in the first half in his nine minutes of action.
It was a rough shooting night for Indiana's starting front court, with David West, Roy Hibbert, and C.J. Miles combining for 8-27 shooting, but West made the most of his attempts, getting to the line six times, scoring 15 points. Hibbert and West struggled to contain Al Jefferson, who led the Hornets with 30, but did well to limit Jefferson late in the game, with him scoring one point and missing his last four attempts in the game's final four minutes.
Though Hill hit the game winner, he had just 11 on the night, shooting 4-10 from the floor. He did dish a team high three assists (along with four other Pacers) on a night where Indiana wasn't diligent with their ball movement, especially in the first half, coming up with 19 assists. Rodney Stuckey led the starters with 15 points (along with West), his scoring welcome, scoring 12 in the third.
With the win affording the Pacers to standings glance, Indiana climbed to within two games of the 8th playoff spot and 2 1/2 of Charlotte in the 7th spot. As part of a six team race for the final two spots, the Pacers were the only team to gain ground today, with Detroit losing at home to Minnesota and Brooklyn, Boston, and Miami all coming off of losses of their own heading into today.
With two games left before the All-Star break the Pacers can afford themselves some postseason life heading into the break as they host a pair of Western Conference opponents beginning with the San Antonio Spurs tomorrow night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, followed by New Orleans on Wednesday. Whether you want wins or losses, playoffs or draft positioning, the Pacers currently hold the league's longest winning streak, so strap in!