Before Tuesday night's game against the Wizards, in a tunnel beneath Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Pacers coach Frank Vogel told reporters he expected the game against Washington to have a playoff feel to it. He said that his players seemed to be dialed in during both practice and morning film session.
And after overcoming a slow start on the offensive side of things, the Pacers began to embody the focus and determination Vogel had spoke of earlier, as Indiana roared past the Wizards using a 5-0 run in the second overtime of a double-OT, instant-classic at The Fieldhouse to grab a 99-95 victory and remain in control of their playoff destiny.
"I couldn’t be more proud of our guys, just all out heart, will and perseverance," said Vogel after the game. "We had so many opportunities to give in. Our defense carried us. It was exceptional."
For much of the game, the Pacers struggled to find their footing on the offensive end against the playoff-bound Wizards. So it came as little surprise that in the first overtime period, it took Indiana four minutes to get on the board. But luckily for the Blue & Gold, the Wizards were also restricted on offense, scoring only four points as well.
Vogel's risk to put the recently returned Paul George back into late-game situations paid quick dividends when PG nailed a floating jumper to tie the game at 85 with 22.4 seconds left in the first overtime. The Wizards thought they had what would be the game's final possession, but as Bradley Beal drove to the basket David West slapped the ball from his grasp as it tumbled off Beal's legs and out of bounds, giving the Pacers the ball with 2.3 heart-pounding seconds left.
George inbounded the ball to West, who quickly shoveled it back to him as he launched the potential game-winner. The shot, however, was a hair off as it bounced off the rim with the backboard lit red, signifying the end of the first overtime period with the game tied at 85 apiece.
"I thought our defense really came through in that second overtime," West explained. "You know, we just made enough plays to win."
Although the Wizards were able to nudge the deficit back to just two points after the Pacers' 5-0 run in the second overtime, a 3-pointer from George Hill — who had a 24 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists — put Indiana up five with 27 seconds left. From there, the Pacers were able to finally shut the door on the Wizards' inspired comeback attempts.
Back in the fourth quarter, however, the Pacers started off trailing Washington by three, but that changed quickly when George shook off his defender and found himself open on the right wing. PG drilled the open 3-pointer to tie the game up 59.
But from there, the Wizards cracked off an 11-2 run that had the Pacers down nine with a little more than six minutes remaining in the game.
Sprinting down the baseline past his defender with three minutes remaining in regulation, C.J. Miles received a pass and quickly threw up a layup that fell right down the middle of the hoop. When the ref whistled a foul to signal the and-1, the crowd screamed loudly in approval. When the Hometown Hero George Hill came down and laid one in to put Indiana up 76-75 on the following possession, the crowd became deafening.
However, despite the thunderous cheers of "De-Fense" from the crowd, the Wizards were able to score on consecutive possessions and tie the game up at 79. Until of course, Rodney Stuckey, who had 10 second-half points, hit a short jumper to take the lead.
The Wizards responded with a basket in the paint on the other end to once again knot things up 81. Washington ended up with regulation's final possession as John Wall — who had 16 points and 11 assists — attempted a floater that caromed off the rim. Wizards forward Marcin Gortat appeared to tip in the game-winner, but the refs quickly ruled it was after time expired, sending the contest into overtime.
"Every time we play them, it’s a tough game," Wall said. "The games are always back and forth and real close and it seems like they always come down to the end."
The game had a streaky nature to it from the beginning, with the Wizards jumping out to an 8-0 advantage. The Pacers didn't score a point until four minutes into the game, but once George Hill hit Indiana's first basket, the Pacers rattled off a 9-0 run of their own. But given the type of game it was, the Wizards responded with a 6-0 run.
By the time the first quarter ended neither team was shooting higher than 35 percent from the field, which led to the teams being tied up at the low score of 16.
At the half, the Pacers were trailing by eight and tied their season low with just 33 points. But the team that emerged from the tunnel after the break was an energized group on the offensive side of the ball, outscoring the Wizards 23-18 in the third quarter.
The game was critical from a playoff standpoint since Indiana could guarantee itself a spot in the playoffs by winning its final game tomorrow night at Memphis.
For one of the season's most thrilling games, it was fitting that it was Fan Appreciation Night, as the Pacers stuck around after the final whistle and signed autographs for all the fans who came down to the court. Not a bad way to cap off season's final regular-season home game.
Inside the Numbers
C.J. Miles, who finished the night with a team-high 25 points, has now scored 20 or more points in three straight games.
Indiana's last double-overtime game was a November 3, 2012 game against the Sacramento Kings.
Roy Hibbert has now snared 10 or more rebounds in four straight games, his longest streak since March 23-28 of 2013.
What They're Saying
"We executed, moved the ball some more, got guys good looks and we made them. We missed some shots in the first one. We turned the ball over a couple times and that gave them a chance to get back in it. George Hill made a big shot, (Rodney) Stuckey made some big shots, D West...Everybody got a chance to make big shots and we’ve been talking about that all year, guys stepping up and continuing to give us a chance to be able to do what we want to do. We’re going to continue to fight and give ourselves a chance. As long as we continue to do that, that’s all you can ask for." -C.J. Miles
"We were locked into the game. We wanted to win. This was a great test for us. This was a great atmosphere against a good team. It’s unfortunate that we lost but there’s a lot that we can gain from this game." -Wizards guard Bradley Beal
"That was huge for us, just to keep us alive. Roy (Hibbert) made a few of those (extra effort) plays. That’s the kind of motor we needed for this win. We were able to do it." -David West on the hustle plays at the end of the game
- With the win, the Pacers maintain control of their playoff destiny and can clinch the eighth seed with a win against Memphis tomorrow night
- Indiana has now won 13 of its last 14 home games against the Washington Wizards
- The Pacers finished the first half shooting just 28.8 percent, their second-lowest shooting percentage in any half this season.
- Paul George's 18 minutes were his season high
Stat of the Night
The Pacers are now 14-4 when George Hill leads the team in assists. Hill continues to have one of the finest seasons of his career. He's notched 20 or more points on 14 occasions, and dished out 10 or more assists three times, both career highs. He also set his career high in tonight's game when he logged 48 minutes