It might have been a little closer than expected, but Paul George came alive in the second half to lead the Pacers (31-26) to a 108-105 win over the New York Knicks (24-35) on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the team's first home game since the All-Star break.
George scored all but two of his game-high 27 points in the final two quarters to lead Indiana, wearing their special Hickory uniforms, to their third win in their last four games.
"I just imposed my will," George said of his second-half performance. "I got to my sweet spot, which is in the paint pull-ups. Those are confidence boosters when I start in close and work my way out."
HICKORY HONOREE: Crispus Attucks Honored at Halftime »
The Pacers trailed by two at the half, but opened the second half strong.
Thanks in large part to the contributions of All-Star George and rookie phenom Myles Turner, Indiana reeled off a 12-2 run (with George and Turner combining for 10 points) to open up the third quarter. The Blue & Gold stretched that lead to as many as 11 points and appeared to be starting to put away a slumping Knicks team that had dropped 12 of its last 14 contests entering Wednesday.
But New York answered with a 13-2 run of their own, re-taking the lead with 1:02 left in the third period. The two teams headed into the fourth quarter tied at 80, but the Knicks moved back in front on Langston Galloway's 3-pointer on the quarter's opening possession.
New York maintained the advantage for over half the quarter before a jumper by Paul George, the last of eight straight Pacers points from the three-time All-Star, gave Indiana a 94-93 lead with 5:38 to play.
The lead was short-lived, as Kristaps Porzingis made a jumper of his own 16 seconds later to put New York back in front.
Eventually, however, the Pacers took the lead for good when Turner and George took turns swishing jumpers on back-to-back possessions to give Indiana a three-point lead with two and a half minutes left. They led by as many as six, though the Knicks made it a 107-105 game on Carmelo Anthony's layup with 29.6 seconds left, then got the ball back when Anthony rebounded Monta Ellis' missed baseline jumper, giving New York a chance to tie or win the game.
Porzingis got a wide-open look at a three from the top of the key, but missed long on his shot, as Turner corralled the board and knocked down one of two free throws with 1.9 seconds left.
Anthony's corner three on the other end missed long, as Pacers fans shared a collective sigh of relief.
"These last four games have been a test for us," Turner said. "So the fact that we’re coming out pretty successful, minus (Monday's overtime loss in Miami), in these late game situations is only good for us. Because that’s what the playoffs are going to be like."
All eyes were on the two rookie power forwards playing starring roles for their respective teams and both young players delivered in the first half. Turner, the Pacers' 19-year-old rookie, got the slight upper hand in their first battle, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting and six rebounds.
Porzingis, the 20-year-old Knicks forward, was nearly as good. The 7-foot-3 Latvian led New York with 22 points, going 7-for-14 from the field.
"It was great," George said about the matchup between the two rookies. "They're going to go at it for many years. These two kids are really, really, really good."
Besides George and Turner, George Hill was the only other Pacers player to reach double figures, finishing with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Jose Calderon had 20 points for New York, Kyle O'Quinn chipped in 19 off the bench, and Galloway finished with 17. The trio combined to knock down 9-of-11 3-pointers, playing a big part in the Knicks' 13-for-26 performance from beyond the arc.
The Pacers will look to continue their winning ways on Friday night, when they host the Charlotte Hornets at 7:00 PM. Indiana should be out for revenge after enduring a 117-95 drubbing at the Hornets' hands in the two teams' final game prior to the All-Star break on Feb. 10.
Inside the Numbers
The Pacers posted a .505 field goal percentage in the victory, the 11th time this year they shot 50 percent or better from the field.
Indiana outscored New York 48-22 in the paint, their second-widest margin in that area all season (they outscored Toronto 48-20 in the paint on Dec. 14).
The Blue & Gold only committed eight turnovers on the night, only the third time all year they had single-digit turnovers.
George has now topped 20 points in eight straight games dating back to Feb. 5.
O'Quinn's 19 points were a season-high. Prior to Wednesday, O'Quinn had scored a total of nine points in the entire month of February.
You Can Quote Me On That
"We were taking what the defense was giving us, trying to attack the basket. We’re growing as a basketball team." -Pacers head coach Frank Vogel
"We worked out in the summertime a lot. I knew Porzingis could play. I’m happy to see that he’s doing well out there." -Turner on his matchup with Porzingis
"It’s great to see those two play like that. Myles had some big buckets, really rebounding down the stretch and playing well on both sides of the court. Those two will be exciting to watch the next 10-15 years." -Pacers center Ian Mahinmi on Turner and Porzingis
"Kyle (O’Quinn), Langston (Galloway) and Jose (Calderon) had great games, they all stepped up. That’s why it stinks that I missed the shot that could have won us the game." -Porzingis
"Tonight we played against a really good team. We played together, our defense was better, we were more together out there." -Calderon
Stat of the Night
George scored 15 of Indiana's 28 points in the fourth quarter, going 5-for-8 from the field and a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
- With Wednesday's win, the Pacers have won seven straight regular season home games against the Knicks, dating all the way back to March 17, 2012.
- Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey hasn't played since Jan. 10 with a right foot sprain/bone bruise, but Vogel said pregame that he would participate in practice on Thursday.
- Fellow Pacers reserve C.J. Miles missed his second straight game on Wednesday with a strained left calf.
The Pacers host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 PM. Find Tickets »