INDIANAPOLIS(AP) Close finishes are becoming the norm for the Indiana Pacers.
Danny Granger had 27 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, and the Pacers held off a late rally by the Charlotte Bobcats for a 98-93 victory Sunday night.
Indiana has been in 23 games decided by six points or less this season, improving to 9-14. In many of those games, the Pacers have either led or trailed by double-digits.
"I was sitting on the bench and I said, 'Man, it's going to go down to the wire as usual,''' Granger said. "We play so many of them and we lost so many, so we're learning how to win them.''
Against the Bobcats, Indiana led by 14 in the third quarter before seeing the lead dwindle to three late.
"We relax, guys let up,'' Pacers guard Mike Dunleavy said. "We have to cut that out and start winning games bigger. It should be a lot easier on us and the fans.''
Charlotte got within 87-84 on Raymond Felton's 3-pointer with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Pacers answered with a pair of free throws by Granger, a 3-pointer by Dunleavy and a jumper by Granger to regain a double-digit lead.
The Bobcats again cut the deficit to three, 96-93, on Raja Bell's jumper with 1:25 left. Jeff Foster's free throw gave Indiana a four-point lead, and, following two missed free throws by Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace's missed 3-pointer for Charlotte, T.J. Ford's foul shot sealed the victory.
"We have enough practice, certainly, with the number of close games we've played,'' Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "Our guys are relatively comfortable in close situations.''
Ford and Dunleavy each scored 13, and Troy Murphy added 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Pacers, who won a season-high fifth consecutive home game.
Bell and Diaw had 18 points apiece, and Emeka Okafor finished with 14 points and eight rebounds for Charlotte (18-26). The Bobcats had won five of six.
"We didn't match their energy early and we got killed on the boards in the first half,'' Charlotte coach Larry Brown said. "When you're on the road and you give a team a jump-start like that, it's pretty tough to overcome.''
After a back-and-forth first quarter, which featured eight lead changes and two ties, the Pacers used a 10-0 run early in the second to open a 43-34 advantage. Granger had seven points during the spurt. Indiana took its biggest lead of the half, 54-44, on Ford's three-point play.
Dunleavy scored the first four points of the third quarter to extend the Pacers' lead to 14, but Charlotte chipped away at the deficit. Wallace's two free throws got the Bobcats within 74-70 late in the period.
"When you rally, you have to play perfect down the stretch,'' Brown said.
Notes: O'Brien picked up a technical foul in the second quarter for arguing a no-call. ... Bell got a technical in the third quarter. ... Bobcats G D.J. Augustin missed the game with an abdominal strain. ... Pacers C Roy Hibbert (concussion) did not play. ... Brown was coach of the Pacers from 1993-97, finishing with a 190-138 record. Indiana assistant Lester Conner played for Brown during the 1993-94 season. ... Granger entered fourth in the NBA at 26.1 points per game. ... The Pacers' last home loss came Dec. 30 against Atlanta.