Game Rewind: Pacers 121, Rockets 118

Game Recap

Coming off a tough loss against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Pacers looked to bounce back against a rebuilding Houston Rockets squad Friday night.

After Indiana secured a five-point halftime lead, things took an all-too-familiar turn for the worse in the third. Houston outscored the squad 39-22 in the stanza and took a 95-83 lead into the fourth quarter. However, Indiana (24-47) flipped the script in the final frame. Using a late pair of tough buckets from Goga Bitadze, the squad scratched and clawed its way to a 121-118 victory over the Rockets (17-53) at Toyota Center.

Bitadze's clutch points capped off another perfect night for the young center. Starting in relief of Isaiah Jackson (concussion protocol), he finished with a career-high 23 points on 9-of-9 shooting, including three triples.

"It’s always good to get the win," Bitadze said. "I took two games off. So, coming back, playing good, and getting this win was good for (my) confidence. And for the team as well."

"When Goga plays like that, it's hard to beat us," Malcolm Brogdon added. The veteran guard dropped a team-high 25 points — 19 in the second half — on 11-of-19 shooting in the win.

Another Pacers youngster also shined. Jalen Smith tallied 17 points and 10 boards from the bench, but his night ended in the third quarter due to injury. Four others finished in double figures for Indiana as well.

Indiana's early success came from driving the lane and finishing in the paint. The early highlight came from Tyrese Haliburton, who slammed home a backdoor pass from Oshae Brissett in stride. At the 8:15 mark, Brogdon's first bucket earned a 10-9 Pacers advantage before the first timeout.

After play resumed, Houston grabbed a five-point lead on a Kevin Porter Jr. three with 3:37 left. The look came after the Pacers committed their third turnover of the frame. However, the squad regrouped and mounted a 6-0 spree — four from Duane Washington Jr. — to grab a 22-21 edge.

Smith's second bucket — a tip dunk — snagged a 28-25 lead with 1:18 remaining. But Houston took advantage of a pair of Pacers turnovers in the final minute to score seven unanswered points. The hosts took a 32-28 lead into the second quarter.

The Blue & Gold appeared to turn things around early in the second. The squad started the frame with a 9-2 run, including five straight from Bitadze, to earn a 37-34 lead with 9:24 left. Lance Stephenson collected assists on all four buckets of the spree.

Houston tied with Indiana twice but could not lead as the midway mark passed. When Dennis Schroder knotted things up at 42, Buddy Hield and Brogdon nailed back-to-back threes to earn a 48-42 lead with 5:36 remaining.

When Houston threatened again, Smith made sure the Pacers stayed on top. The young forward went to work from all areas of the floor. Leading 54-51, Smith doubled Indiana's lead with a 26-foot trey from the left side. After a Houston miss, he snagged his ninth rebound of the half. Then, with 1:33 to play, he worked the paint and finished a nifty hook to stretch the edge to 59-51. Indiana took a 61-56 lead into halftime.

The Pacers' common miscues reared their ugly head again in the third. Two turnovers in the first 90 seconds helped Houston score eight straight and take a three-point lead. Brogdon broke the streak with a layup. However, the Rockets added five more to secure a 69-63 advantage. Indiana called timeout with 9:30 left.

Houston stretched their lead to as many as nine before Indiana came charging back. Trailing 74-68 with eight minutes left, Washington and Brissett sandwiched a Porter Jr. bucket to create a four-point swing that cut the gap to two. However, Wood sank his third triple of the frame to stop the momentum once more. The bucket earned a 79-74 Houston lead.

Indiana managed to cut the deficit to one with 4:58 left. But a scary sight derailed their run. Battling Wood in the paint, Smith took an inadvertent shoulder to the chin, sending him to the floor. The incident interrupted the squad's defensive flow, leading to a wide-open Jalen Green three. Smith was helped to the locker room during the next stoppage and never returned.

The bump to Smith caused Indiana to be shorthanded in the frontcourt, and Houston capitalized. The hosts finished the frame with eight unanswered points and took a 95-83 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Blue & Gold started hot in the fourth quarter, knocking in seven unanswered over the first 2:13 to trim the double-digit deficit to five. But, the Rockets regrouped after a timeout, scoring four straight to give the game a 99-90 score with 8:53 left.

Indiana trimmed the deficit to four as the midway mark approached. But, Houston stifled that rally with five straight. After a timeout, the squad regrouped again. Trailing 106-97, the Pacers rattled off eight unanswered to cut the gap to 106-105 with 4:17 remaining. Hield and Brogdon anchored the spree with back-to-back threes.

Houston managed to stay in front for the next 3:09. But Bitadze finally tied the game at 115 with a monstrous slam through a foul. Unfortunately, he missed the ensuing free throw.

Nonetheless, the big man came right back and did it again. With 19.2 seconds left, the third-year center snagged the offensive board and banked in a layup through contact, giving the Pacers a 117-115 edge. Houston had one final chance to respond.

With six seconds remaining, Porter Jr. tried to drive the lane but came up empty. Hield gathered the rebound and sealed the deal at the free-throw line on the other end.

Inside the Numbers

Buddy Hield (15 points), Oshae Brissett (14 points, eight boards), and Duane Washington Jr. (13 points) rounded out the Pacers' top scorers.

Indiana scored 62 of its points in the paint (31-of-49 shooting).

The Pacers won the battle on the boards, 46-42. All but one Pacer who made an appearance snagged at least two rebounds.

You Can Quote Me On That

"We've been struggling. But when he plays like that, that gives us an edge for sure. Just his physicality, his ability to make shots, to spread the floor, be tough on the inside, and finish. And then, you know, contest shots at the rim. So, tonight, I thought he was great on both ends." –Brogdon on Bitadze’s impact

"Super important. (Rick) Carlisle had told us over and over how important these last 11/12 games are, and not to take them lightly. We're trying to improve. We're trying to get better. We're trying to build chemistry. Every time we step on the floor, we're trying to win." –Brogdon on picking up the close win

Stat of the Night

The Pacers committed 10 total turnovers in the first and third quarters, but just three in the second and fourth quarters.


  • Indiana has won five straight games against Houston — three on the road.
  • The Pacers used their 31st different starting lineup tonight — the third-most in the NBA.
  • Bitadze finished in double figures for the fourth consecutive game.

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The Pacers welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to Indiana and Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Sunday, March 20 at 3:30 PM ET. Find Tickets »