Roy Hibbert got things started, Danny Granger carried them to the brink and Darren Collison closed the deal.
Hibbert scored 14 of his 24 points in the first half, Granger 17 of his 20 in the second and Collison scored nine of the Pacers' final 11 points, including six huge free throws in the final 90 seconds, as the Pacers rallied from a 12-point deficit, took an 11-point lead late in the fourth quarter, and then had to hang on for dear life to beat the Nets 102-98 before 13,792 Monday in Prudential Center.
Collison also had 12 assists for the Pacers, who shot 59 percent in the second half.
Brook Lopez led New Jersey with 20 points.
The Pacers won for the fourth time in six games to improve to 31-40 overall and move two full games ahead of Milwaukee and Charlotte (both 28-41) in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Indiana also won its seventh in a row against the Nets and improved to 14-13 under interim coach Frank Vogel. The Nets lost their fourth in a row and fell to 22-47 overall, 18-18 at home.
- "We struggled offensively to start and that zapped our energy on the defensive end. We just weren't playing with enough energy. Sometimes the best way to get your offense going is to increase your defensive intensity. We held them to 24 percent shooting in the third quarter and that really was the difference in the game." Vogel
- "(Danny Granger) really got going, had a big second half, shot a high percentage and really keyed us offensively. Roy Hibbert really keyed us offensively all night." Vogel
- "I wanted to be aggressive from the start. Obviously Brook Lopez is one of the best big men in the game right now and my mentality was to make it tough on him but I happened to make some shots early and I played pretty well." Hibbert
- "We played together as a team. We kind of slipped toward the end of the game but that's a learning process and thankfully D.C. (Darren Collison) hit some big free throws." Hibbert
- "We really tried to be aggressive on defense (in the second half), stepping up, getting our hands on loose balls, diving on the floor and we did a good job." Hibbert
STAT OF THE GAME
Hibbert had his first 20-point outing since the All-Star break, a streak of 17 games dating back to his 29-point outburst against Detroit on Feb. 16.
Though the Nets controlled most of the first half, leading 40-28 late in the second quarter, the Pacers closed with a 12-4 run to cut the halftime deficit to just 44-40, then scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 49-44 lead they would not relinquish. Hibbert scored nine in the combined 21-4 run.
The Nets stayed close but Indiana went on a 9-0 run late in the third quarter to open a 69-58 advantage and with Granger heating up in the fourth quarter, it the Pacers appeared in firm control.
The Pacers led 94-83 with 2:24 remaining but New Jersey went on a 12-4 run behind the 3-point shooting of Sasha Vujacic to cut it to 98-95 with 40 seconds left. After Hibbert missed in the post with 24 seconds left, the Nets had time to run out most of the clock to force overtime with a 3-pointer.
Instead, Sundiata Gaines missed a rushed 3-pointer and after the Nets retained possession when the long rebound was deflected out of bounds by Collison, Vujacic hoisted another panicked attempt with 10 seconds left that slammed into the backboard.
Collison made four free throws in the final 10 seconds sandwiching a Gaines 3-pointer to secure the victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
Hibbert shot 10-of-14 from the field, pulled five rebounds and had three blocked shots to accompany his 24 points. Granger missed his first seven shots and had just three points in the first half but had 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the second half, 10 in the fourth quarter, to wind up with 20. Collison was 9-of-9 from the line and added six rebounds to his 12 assists and 15 points. All four of his turnovers came in the first half. McRoberts shot 6-of-7 for his 14 points and Brandon Rush had 10 points and seven rebounds. The Pacers shot .486 overal and had 19 assists and 19 turnovers.
Lopez needed 20 shots (making nine) to get his 20 points. Gaines had 18 with six rebounds, three assists and three steals off the bench. Jordan Farmar and Vujacic scored 14 apiece and Anthony Morrow added 12. The Nets shot .398 and were 8-of-26 (.308) from the 3-point line.
- A.J. Price missed Monday's shootaround and was demoted to No.3 point guard, so Lance Stephenson played eight minutes off the bench behind Collison.
- New Jersey's Kris Humphries just missed his 11th consecutive double-double with nine points and 14 rebounds.
- Deron Williams missed his second consecutive game for the Nets with a sprained right wrist that will be re-evaluated later in the week.
- Rush scored in double figures for the first time in 10 games.
The Pacers travel to Charlotte to face the Bobcats in a game with major postseason implications on Wednesday (7 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana, WIBC 93 FM). Indiana already has clinched the season series and could effectively end the Bobcats' playoff hopes with a victory.