The Indiana Pacers put on such a show in the final 70 seconds it’s hard to know where to start.
How about David West getting three offensive rebounds with a taped left pinkie that was dislocated in the third quarter? Or Paul George hitting the three-pointer that completed a 22-point comeback to give the Pacers their first lead of the game? Or Darren Collison hustling back to steal an inbounds pass after George’s basket?
And, yeah, then there was George doing a bang-up job guarding John Wall on the game’s final possession, forcing him to dribble out the clock before getting a shot off to preserve the Pacers’ 85-83 victory Thursday night.
”Lucky for us,” George said, ”he took a lot of time off the clock.”
Roy Hibbert scored 19 points, Danny Granger had 16 and West and George finished with 13 apiece for the Pacers, whose final spurt made up for an abysmal first half in which they were outshot and outrun by one of the worst teams in the NBA.
Indiana roared back to outrebound Washington 26-11 after halftime and allow only 11 field goals in the second half, but it’s the final sequence that showed the hustle of a team determined to come all the way back.
With 1:06 remaining, George missed a three that would have given the Pacers the lead, but West grabbed the rebound and got the ball back to George for another try. This one was good, and Indiana was up 84-83 with 1:01 to go.
Then Collison swopped in and alertly picked off Nene’s nonchalant inbounds pass.
”We call Darren ‘The Wizard.’ He just magically appears sometimes,” Hibbert said. ”I’m running down the court, like a fellow player that used to play here. And then the next thing I know we have the ball back.”
The ”fellow player that used to play here,” by the way, is a reference to JaVale McGee, whose blooper lowlights included the time he ran downcourt to play defense while the Wizards still had the ball. Washington traded McGee last week.
The Pacers missed two more jumpers in the final minute, but West was there both times to keep the ball in Indiana’s hands, even though he had his pinkie go the wrong way while reaching for a rebound early in the second half.
”Seriously, he dislocated his finger and he was able to tip the ball out,” Hibbert said. ”It shows how strong-willed he is. He was putting on an offensive rebounding clinic down there. He’s a big reason why we won tonight, probably the reason why we won.”
Added coach Frank Vogel: ”That’s the best end-of-game defense you can possibly have, right? Don’t let them get the ball.”
The Wizards finally had to foul, and Collison made 1 of 2 free throws with 9.5 seconds remaining. Washington called timeout to set up a final play, but Wall dribbled and dribbled trying to escape George before sinking a 12-footer, just after time expired.
”I tried to create something,” Wall said, ”but there wasn’t enough spacing for me to create.”
Jordan Crawford finished with 21 points, Chris Singleton matched his career-high with 16 points and Wall had 16 points and nine assists for the Wizards, who outrebounded the Pacers 24-14 in the first half and had an 18-2 advantage in fast-break points at halftime.
”In the second half, we always for some reason get stagnant,” Wall said. ”We don’t move. You see it turns into taking bad shots.”
Down by 22 in the second quarter and 20 at halftime, Indiana put together an 11-0 third-quarter run led by Granger and then rode Hibbert through the middle of the fourth quarter to stay close.
”That’s just us not throwing in the towel,” George said. ”A lot of times when you’re down like that, you tend to play out of character. We stuck to ourselves and our identity.”
NOTES: Nene, a trade-deadline acquisition playing his second game with the Wizards, was the catalyst for his team’s 6 for 6 start in the first quarter, but he was quiet the rest of the game and finished with six points, five rebounds and three turnovers. … Indiana’s deadline pickup, Leandro Barbosa, was also playing his second game with his new team and finished with two points in 15 minutes. … Wizards F Andray Blatche, who has been booed frequently at home all season and needs to get himself back into shape following a recent calf injury, sat out for the second straight game to work on his conditioning. ”They, the fans, they see it. My mom sees it. This was a bad year for me, one of my worst ever,” Blatche said. ”I let my mom down, my family down, my teammates, the whole organization down this season.”