Down by three with 40 seconds remaining, Paul George showed no signs of slowing down, hitting a tough shot in the paint to bring the Pacers within one point of the lead, 94-93, and giving George his game-high 32nd point.
On the other end, George Hill was able to trigger a jump ball with the seven-foot Cody Zeller, and subsequently won the jump, giving the Pacers possession down one with 30.7 remaining on the clock.
Monta Ellis and PG ran a high pick-and-roll and Ellis dove to the hoop, laying in a lead-taking bucket with 16.2 on the clock as the crowd erupted.
But during the Hornets' final play, inbounding the ball with 10 seconds left, Kemba Walker was able to evade the defense, scoring a go-ahead layup with 2.4 seconds left in the game.
The Pacers got one last look — a Paul George jumper from the elbow — but the shot sailed wide, sending Indiana to a gut-wrenching 96-95 loss in a game they nearly stole at the buzzer despite trailing for the majority of the evening.
"I slipped which screwed up my momentum going to the basket but I thought I got a good enough look," explained George after the game. "Had I not slipped, I would have taken it to the basket."
After getting outscored by four in the third quarter, and trailing by seven entering the fourth quarter of play against the Hornets, the Pacers needed a spark to lift them back into the game.
So with nearly eight minutes remaining, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel reinserted the starting lineup, something he usually doesn't do until the game's final five minutes of play.
The move paid off immediately, as Indiana got on a fastbreak and Myles Turner attempted to hammer a dunk to ignite the crowd. In what can only be categorized as a rookie moment, the slam was nothing but iron, caroming high into the air.
Luckily for the Pacers, however, the ball was rebounded by the Blue & Gold and ended up making it in the cylinder after all when George Hill (10 points) nailed a 3-pointer to bring Indiana back to within three.
With five minutes remaining, George Hill calmly sank two free throws to give Indiana its first lead since it was 15-14, sending the Friday night crowd into bedlam. The free throws also capped a 13-3 Pacers run, setting up the final moments at The Fieldhouse.
"I think I gotta make a better read," said Ian Mahinmi of Walker's game-winner. "He's a fast point guard. I was up way too high. I allowed myself to get split. It's a mistake on my part. Next time, just treat it as a regular drop like I always do and make him shoot over me. I gotta grow from it. It's a painful mistake but I'll get better at it."
In the first half of play, the Pacers cut their deficit to just three at the break in dramatic fashion when George connected on a 40-foot buzzer-beating jumper to lift the Friday-night crowd at The Fieldhouse to its feet. It was part of George's game-high 17-point first half.
Coming out of the halftime locker room, the Hornets opened the game up, outscoring Indiana 24-20 and extending their lead to seven heading into the game's final quarter. At one point in the third, the Hornets led by 14, triggering Vogel to make a series of substitutions.
Marvin Williams, the Hornets' 3-point shooting power forward, had racked up 24 points midway through the third quarter, prompting Vogel to sub Solomon Hill in for Myles Turner, in an effort to stymie the dynamic forward.
Using a spread lineup, the Pacers started a rally, reeling off a 7-0 run behind a series of free throws and makes at the basket.
But to start the fourth quarter, the Hornets were threatening to put the game out of reach, requiring Vogel to sub his starters back in.
The starting five, spearheaded by George, was able to battle back into the lead in the game's final moments, but Kemba Walker's 22nd point proved to be the dagger, as the Pacers dropped a tight one on Friday night.
When asked what the team needed to do to start stringing wins together, Mahinmi had an answer readily available.
"We have to be focused, we have to be angry," he said. "We have to play mad. We have to do whatever it takes to get wins."
Inside the Numbers
This was Paul George's ninth consecutive game scoring 20 or more points in a game. It was also Myles Turner's ninth consecutive game scoring in double-figures.
Kemba Walker's 10 assists were his season-high.
Hornets forward Marvin Williams tied his career-high with five 3-point field goals.
In the third quarter, the Hornets used a 24-11 run to open up the game.
You Can Quote Me On That
"They shoot 30 (3-pointers) a game. And we've got a young seven-footer learning how to defend 3-point shooters and they've got one of the quickest guards in the league in Kemba Walker. This is the style of play that will give us the most problems. It was a challenge tonight." -Pacers head coach Frank Vogel
"Great team ball, scoring and finding the open shooter. Sometimes we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fouls were a factor. We fought a lot harder than we did the first time (against Charlotte before the break). They just came up with the win." -Pacers center Jordan Hill
"Well he wants the ball there's no question about that. He wants to take the big shot and make or miss, now he has courage. So you know he's raising up as if he's going to make it and that's all you can ask for." -Hornets head coach Steve Clifford on Kemba Walker
- This was the first time that the Hornets have won two road games in Indiana in a single season since the 1996-1997 season
- The Hornets connected on 11-of-28 3-point shots
- Indiana shot it well from the free throw line, hitting on 21-of-24 attempts
- The Pacers outscored the Hornets 25-19 in the fourth quarter
Stat of the Night
Paul George's 32 points was the highest total he's scored at home since a January 2nd game against the Detroit Pistons.
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Home Court Gift Shop Game Night Special
Short Sleeve Climalite Top - 50% Off. Game Night Specials can be purchased in the Home Court Gift Shop or any of our souvenir stands located on all levels of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The special is also available online at PacersGear.com until midnight.