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Pacers final score: Pacers come back against Rockets 121-118

Indiana erased a 12-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter, topping Houston. Goga Bitadze had 23 points on 9-9 shooting.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers got a rare come from behind victory tonight, topping the Houston Rockets behind a strong fourth quarter performance, particularly from Goga Bitadze, who had four huge points in the closing stretch to put the Pacers back on top late. The Pacers had all but faded in this one, trailing by 12 after three quarters, suffering at the hands of Christian Wood, scorer of 20 third quarter points.

Wood nearly outscored Indiana on his own in the third, leading Houston to a resounding 39-22 quarter victory. It was the first time all night the two teams found any real separation from each other following a highly contested first half. While the Pacers went into the half with the lead, it was a real struggle outside of Bitadze and Jalen Smith.

Bitadze, for all of his success on the offensive end tonight, had his struggles on the defensive side of the floor, picking up three first half fouls in his battles with Alperen Sengun. He had 14 points, however, joined in double figures by Smith, who had 15 points and nine rebounds at the break.

Houston stormed out of the half, outscoring the Pacers 15-2 to take a nine-point lead. Malcolm Brogdon did all he could to keep the game within striking distance, scoring 12 of his own in the quarter, but after the Pacers had cut the lead to one at 81-80, the Rockets closed the quarter on another 15-2 run to go up double figures heading into the fourth.

Buddy Hield’s shooting struggled all night, but he came alive in the fourth with a pair of threes as the Pacers hit five in the quarter to quickly climb back into the game. Each step forward was eventually met with some form of Rockets resistance, eventually extending the lead out to five with 2:35 remaining.

Tyrese Haliburton had his own struggles shooting the ball, but connected on his lone three to follow, making it a two-point game. Down two, the Pacers forced a shot clock violation with Hield setting up Bitadze inside to tie it up. Bitadze’s second bucket late gave Indiana the lead and though he missed both free throws in those two and-one opportunities, he did a good job not going down and back up with the ball, attacking directly and giving the Pacers a lead.

Up two with just 18 seconds left, Kevin Porter Jr. attacked the basket, but Oshae Brissett came up big blocking the shot. The ensuing chaos underneath would eventually result in a Porter foul on Hield, including an oddly missed call with Wood and Terry Taylor tangled up and going to the floor, something that should’ve gone against Taylor.

With the foul that wound up being called elsewhere in the fracas benefiting the Pacers, it set up Hield to put the game on ice, hitting the first two of his four game sealing free throws, completing Indiana’s fifth double digit comeback on the year, one of the seemingly endless number of stats that help explain why Indiana is 23 games under .500.

Bitadze was fantastic again tonight, finishing with a career high 23 points and nine rebounds on a perfect 9-9 shooting night. He connected on all three of his triples, even leading the way with three steals. Bitadze’s foul trouble would limit his minutes, but it did work in Indiana’s favor with the way Smith stepped in as the backup center.

Smith was a force of his own, scoring 17 points with 10 rebounds in just 13 minutes of action, finishing 8-9. Unfortunately, his limited minutes weren’t due to any on-court struggles, but due to a head contusion after taking an elbow to the face. He collapsed and would eventually make it to the locker room under his own power, but it was clear he was in no condition to play.

With Bitadze’s foul trouble, that really limited Indiana’s size up front. Taylor would go scoreless in 21 minutes with four rebounds and Justin Anderson had just two after rejoining the Pacers on a 10-day. Brissett would wind up in double figures with 14 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, but was just 4-13 shooting on a night when Indiana was getting near perfect shooting from Bitadze and Smith.

That would lead Brogdon to take charge of the offense, putting up 19 of his 25 in the second half as the Pacers staged their comeback. He also had four assists, a bit of a surprisingly low number considering the success the Pacers had moving the ball. For the game, Indiana totaled 29 assists, led by Haliburton with seven and Lance Stephenson with six.

Haliburton finished with 10 points on 4-9 shooting, continuing to work through some poor shooting from deep, connecting on just one of his six three point attempts. With he and Hield (15 points on 4-20 overall, 3-12 from three) both missing shots, it does change some of the ways Indiana can get some easy points, though Duane Washington Jr. was able to pitch in well, scoring 13 points with a pair of threes.

The Rockets were dominate in fast break points, outscoring Indiana 23-6, but the Pacers did a solid job minimizing Houston’s success off of turnovers, outscoring them 11-8 after Houston had blitzed Indiana in the first quarter 8-2. Indiana’s rebounding also helped them minimize Houston’s speed, pulling in 16 offensive rebounds to score 17 second chance points.

The win improves Indiana to 24-47 on the year, which barring any changes on the scoreboard will draw them to within a half a game of Sacramento for the league’s 25th best record. It also places them three games back of the Portland Trail Blazers, their next opponent in a Sunday matinee home game before a midweek matchup with the aforementioned Kings.