Pacers 104, Bobcats 103
Frank Vogel has been talking about a new attitude and a playoff push since taking over as Indiana coach.
The Pacers looked again Wednesday night like a team that could make a run to the postseason.
With Roy Hibbert scoring 29 points, the Pacers held off a late rally for a 104-103 victory over the Bobcats, moving Indiana past Charlotte into the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
''We stuck through and won it down the stretch,'' Hibbert said. ''It was a tough win. A couple weeks ago, we probably wouldn't have won that game.''
The Pacers have won five of six games since Vogel took over as iterim coach for Jim O'Brien 10 days ago. They had lost seven of eight games before the coaching change.
The victory moved Indiana (22-28) into eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, just ahead of Charlotte (22-30). With the victory, Indiana also clinched the season series against the Bobcats, and would hold a postseason tiebreaker over them.
''It's big right now, but we have higher aspirations than the eighth spot,'' Vogel said. ''We think we're a very good basketball team. We're hoping to make a run down the stretch that's going to be special.
Controversy came on the game's final play.
The Bobcats, who rallied from an 15-point third quarter deficit, tied the game 102-102 with a 15-foot jump shot by Stephen Jackson with 1:37 remaining.
Forward Josh McRoberts' tip-in put Indiana ahead again, 104-102, with 1:21 remaining.
The Bobcats, who had trailed by 11 points at the end of the third quarter and 102-95 with 3:13 remaining, pulled to within one, when Gerald Wallace made 1 of 2 free throws with 29.0 seconds remaining.
Pacers point guard Darren Collison missed a 9-foot jump shot with 7.9 seconds remaining, after which Wallace rebounded. Jackson brought the ball up the court, and he and Collison made contact as Jackson attempted a 32-foot 3-point field goal.
The shot missed, and no foul was called. Bobcats coach Paul Silas, Jackson and Bobcats coaches and players protested.
Silas and Jackson each declined to criticize the call afterward.
''I just went up for the shot and didn't get the ball - got to live with it,'' Jackson said.
Silas called the play ''a judgment call.''
''The referee had the right to make a call,'' Silas said. ''He said it wasn't a foul, so you have to go with it.''
Collison was asked afterward if there had been a foul on the play.
''I didn't feel like I fouled him,'' Collison said. ''I made a play and whatever happened, happened. I'm not answering that type of question because I hate lying.''
Said Vogel, ''I'm not really concerned about that. We got a 'W.'''
Before the Bobcats' late-game run, the Pacers did what they have done much of the last two weeks: play dramatically better than they had most of the rest of the season.
Danny Granger had 25 points and Collison added 15 points for Indiana, and Hibbert continued to play as solidly as he had since Vogel took over. For Hibbert, who also added 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, the 29 points tied a career-high.
Jackson had 27 points for the Bobcats, who led by eight points early before Indiana took control.
Granger has also had something of a resurgence under Vogel.
He shot nine of 17 from the field and 3 of 3 from 3-point range, with each of his 3-pointers coming when he had an open look after quick ball movement by the Pacers.
Granger made 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions in the final two minutes of the third quarter, after which Indiana led, 81-66.
That was Indiana's biggest lead, but with Jackson hitting 3 of 6 fourth-quarter 3-pointers, the Bobcats erased an 11-point lead.
''We did fight,'' Silas said. ''I was very proud of them.''
NOTES: The Pacers' lone loss under Vogel came Tuesday at Miami, with Indiana leading much of the game before losing by four points. ... Vogel afterward called Wednesday's victory a ''double points'' game because of its potential playoff impact. ... Wallace had 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists.