Wednesday's game was billed as the night Lance Stephenson returned to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But in the end, the night belonged to Solomon Hill.
Hill, starting at shooting guard on Wednesday night in the spot vacated by Stephenson, put back Rodney Stuckey's missed shot at the buzzer to lift the Pacers (5-7) to a 88-86 win over the Charlotte Hornets (4-8).
Out of a timeout, the Pacers ran an isolation play for Stuckey, who was guarded tightly by Stephenson. Stuckey managed to create a little separation with a crossover, but his shot missed short.
Hill, however, was there to save the day. The second-year player darted to the rim and made an acrobatic play, rebounding Stuckey's miss and flinging it back up and into the basket while still in mid air.
"Usually in a situation like that, everybody's kind of ball-watching," Hill said of the play. "It's the last play of the game, it's a potential game-winner, guys turn their head. I took advantage when (Gerald Henderson) turned his head.
"I just tried to get to the rim. It came off and I was able to get it up in time."
Hill had just six points on the night, but he also had the biggest bucket of the Pacers' season-to-date. Hill's heroics sealed the Pacers' fourth win in their last five games after a 1-6 start to the season.
"We are growing in confidence," head coach Frank Vogel said. "We've got young guys that are playing way more than they've ever played before...We're solid up front, our young guys are growing in confidence, and it showed tonight with our ability to win a game like that."
It was a back-and-forth game that saw seven ties and 10 lead changes right up until the final minutes. Charlotte led by as many as 15 in the second quarter, but Indiana rallied to retake the lead late in the third quarter, setting up a back-and-forth final period.
With the game tied at 81, Hornets center Al Jefferson rolled in a one-handed jumper from the left block for his 27th and 28th points of the night to give Charlotte a two-point lead with 3:01 to play. Donald Sloan drew a foul and hit both free throws on the other end to even the score once more.
Kemba Walker hit a contested 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 2:15 remaining to put Charlotte back in front. But once again, the Pacers answered, as Luis Scola converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 1:28 left to knot the score at 86.
Stephenson's 3-pointer on the ensuing possession missed, as did Hill's leaning 15-footer on the other end.
Out of a timeout, the Pacers' strong defense forced an airball from Marvin Williams, giving the Blue-and-Gold the ball with 18 seconds left and setting the stage for Hill's heroics.
On the night, Hibbert led the Pacers with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Luis Scola added 15 and seven for the Blue-and-Gold, while Donald Sloan had 11 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.
Stuckey, who returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing the past seven games with a foot injury, scored 11 points in a season-high 26 minutes.
Jefferson led all scorers with 28 points (on 12-of-22 shooting) and eight rebounds.
Stephenson added 10 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Stephenson, who spent his first four NBA seasons in Indiana before signing with Charlotte in July, received a mixture of boos and cheers in pre-game introductions, but was pretty consistently booed once the game began.
The Pacers play again on Saturday night, when they host the Phoenix Suns at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Inside the Numbers
The win marked Indiana's largest comeback victory of the season. They trailed by 15 points with 4:42 remaining in the second quarter
In the Pacers' last four wins, they have held opponents to 84.3 points per game and outrebounded opponents by an average of 13.5 boards per contest. On Wednesday, Indiana won the battle of the boards, 51-41. It was the fourth time this year the Pacers have accumulated 50 or more rebounds.
Hibbert's double-double was his fourth of the season. Scola, meanwhile, has scored 36 points in his last two games after only scoring a total of 41 points in his previous seven outings. Donald Sloan set a new career-high with nine defensive rebounds.
Jefferson had another big night to lead Charlotte. In his last five games against the Pacers, Jefferson is averaging 24.8 points and eight rebounds. In addition to Stephenson's line, Kemba Walker added 12 points and seven assists for the visitors.
The Pacers won despite making a season-low two 3-point field goals on 15 attempts. Indiana was, however, 16-for-24 from the free throw line while the Hornets managed just 12 free throw attempts, making seven.
You Can Quote Me On That
"It was isolating Stuckey, getting him at his best going to the rim. I figured he was going to score. But Solo (Solomon Hill) had him, and got in there to put up an offensive rebound and get it in in time." -Sloan on the game's final play
"He just has great toughness. He guards, he’s physical in everything he does. He has a great basketball I.Q." -Vogel on Solomon Hill
"The whole team is playing better, we’re winning games and it’s more encouraging. When you start getting the rhythm and start playing well, sooner or later the wins will start coming." -Scola
"I feel like we played great defense. It was just one of those things where Lance tipped the ball and it kind of took a funny bounce and Hill made a hell of a play. You never know if Lance doesn’t tip the ball maybe it takes a different bounce. But you have to tip your hat off to them." -Hornets forward Marvin Williams on the final play
"They have a lot of guys injured. But they have a lot of guys that are stepping up, Solomon Hill is stepping up. He’s been playing real good, I’ve been watching him. Roy (Hibbert) is playing good, Copeland (Chris) is stepping up…They’re all playing good." -Stephenson on the Pacers
"It was emotional. Seeing my old teammates, seeing the fans, and seeing the people that I normally see when I come into the building. I just wish we would have gotten the W." -Stephenson on returning to Indiana
Stat of the Game
The Pacers had 14 offensive rebounds on the night, two short of their season high, resulting in 16 second-chance points. Scola, Lavoy Allen, and Ian Mahinmi each had four offensive boards, but the biggest one went to Solomon Hill on the game's final play.
- According to ESPN Stats & Info, Hill's game-winning shot was the first buzzer-beater by the Pacers since Mike Dunleavy's game winner on Dec. 20, 2010. Dunleavy tipped in a Danny Granger miss to beat the New Orleans Hornets.
- The Pacers have now won 10 straight games against Charlotte at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The franchise from North Carolina has not won in Indianapolis since Nov. 28, 2008.
- Rodney Stuckey and Hornets forward Bismack Biyombo received double technical fouls in the second quarter. Ian Mahinmi also received a technical in the second.
- Former Indiana University standout Cody Zeller had seven points in just under 21 minutes for Charlotte. Hornets forward Noah Vonleh, a rookie from IU, dressed but did not play.
The Pacers host the Phoenix Suns on Saturday, Nov. 22 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Find Tickets »