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Paul George hits dagger, lifts Pacers to 107-100 win over Jazz

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Paul George scored 19 points, including seven late, as Indiana grabbed a late win over Utah. Jeff Teague had 21.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Key defensive plays from the Indiana Pacers and clutch shooting by Paul George helped lift the Pacers back into the win column, defeating the Utah Jazz at home. The Pacers needed George’s heroics late, when as was the case most of the night, their lead evaporated, forcing them to dig in and make plays when it mattered.

Indiana took the lead for good late in the first, but the Jazz made them work to keep it on multiple occasions. None more than in the third quarter when a Rudy Gobert and-one opportunity drew Utah to within two. Jeff Teague responded in a big way, scoring five of his 10 third quarter points and blocking shots at the rim as the Pacers closed the third on a 12-4 run.

In the fourth, the Pacers kept Utah at bay despite Jazz runs, eventually leading 100-89 with just over three minutes remaining after a big layup by Thaddeus Young. The Jazz responded immediately, scoring eight straight in a minute, with Gordon Hayward scoring five as part of a career high 38 points to cut the lead to three.

The Pacers responded, with George hitting a huge three pointer to push the game back up by six. It would be fitting that the Jazz would cut the lead in half by none other than George Hill, who completed a pair of three point plays in the fourth as part of his 16 points, keeping the Pacers on their toes.

The teams traded blocks and stops as the officials let both teams play, giving the Pacers possession with 39 seconds remaining. At that point, the Pacers cleared out, letting George go to work:

George sank the dagger for the win as part of a 19-point game, scoring 17 in the second half. George was 0-7 in the first half, but despite the poor shooting, he stayed involved with four assists and a pair of steals, diving to the floor as the Pacers maintained their lead.

Three point shooting was a big part in Indiana’s success early, with Teague and C.J. Miles each hitting three with the Pacers hitting 10-20 from deep. Combined with a 21-14 free throw advantage, Indiana was able to overcome a worse field goal percentage for just the third time in 30 games this season.

Teague finished with a team high 21, keeping the Pacers alive early and often with Miles contributing 15 points. Myles Turner also overcame a bad start, turning his night around with 14 of his 16 points in the second half. Turner has struggled of late, so to see him rack up more fouls than points in the first half wasn’t a surprise, but much like George, he was able to stay engaged with three blocks.

Turner’s fourth block on Hill at the three point line in the game’s closing seconds not only sealed the win, but prevented a tense free throw session had Hill hit the three and managed to close the game to within two. That’s largely because Monta Ellis remained in the game to the very end, though he did play well, scoring 12 off the bench, continuing his positive play.

Al Jefferson also found time off the bench, working his way to a double figure night, even keeping the Pacers’ bench relatively even. Jefferson’s minutes have been rightfully trimmed, but his scoring value was on display with 10 points, relieving Ellis’s scoring where there were only six additional points; three coming from a crucial halftime buzzer beater from Glenn Robinson III.

While Jefferson was a bit of a surprise given his struggles, it proved a productive move for a second unit that would have struggled scoring otherwise. Nate McMillan shook up the bench further by pushing Aaron Brooks into the rotation over Rodney Stuckey. Brooks went scoreless with four assists, but even in a scoreless outing was an upgrade over Stuckey’s massive struggles of late.

The win of course puts Indiana back in the W column, as they move to 14 straight games of alternating wins and losses. To get an idea of what that looks like:

It’s obviously been more frustrating to watch unfold, but being well beyond the point of “turning the corner,” the Pacers will have a real opportunity of extending the “streak” so to speak when they hit the road to face the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

In the meantime, the Pacers gain a game on the Atlanta Hawks for 5th place after their own loss tonight, also giving them a half game leg up on Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami, and Chicago. It will provide plenty of scoreboard watching with all four teams in action tomorrow night.