Pacers beat Jazz to win fifth straight game
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers played just well enough to beat an inferior opponent, which has been the way most of their five-game win streak has gone.
David West scored 25 points, Paul George added 22, and the Pacers beat the Utah Jazz 94-91 on Sunday night.
Indianapolis native Gordon Hayward had 21 points and Derrick Favors scored 17 for the Jazz, nine of them in the first eight minutes as Utah opened a 14-4 lead.
A dunk from Favors cut the Pacers’ lead to 89-86 with a minute left to play, and West missed a jumper to give Utah a chance to tie with 35 seconds remaining. Hayward cut the Indiana lead to one, but Lance Stephenson sank two free throws to seal the win.
“This was a mental toughness win,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “I thought we played with extraordinary effort for four quarters.”
The Jazz made things interesting in the game’s fourth period thanks to Hayward, who had 10 of his 21 points in the final 15 minutes. His final five points came in the final minutes.
Ian Mahinmi came off the bench to score nine points for the Pacers and provide key minutes, as Roy Hibbert struggled to contain Favors.
Utah came out of halftime to score eight unanswered points and force Indiana to call an early timeout. The Pacers retook the lead when Mahinmi was fouled on a layup. Mahinmi made the free throw to put Indiana up 60-58.
“I’ve pretty solid on defense all season long,” Mahinmi said. “My shot blocking has been up. My timing is good.”
C.J. Watson, starting for the injured George Hill, scored 13 points for the Pacers. Hill sat out his second straight game with a bruised shoulder.
After coming off the bench to score 17 in a win over Boston a night earlier, Evan Turner struggled in his reserve role. Turner, acquired from Philadelphia on Feb. 20, scored eight points and shot 2 of 9 in 20 minutes.
But the Pacers got a boost from Mahinmi and Watson to pull out another win against an opponent they might have easily beaten earlier in the season. After two close tilts against Milwaukee and a come-from-behind victory in Boston on Saturday night, Indiana survived a scare against one of the West’s worst teams.
But all night long, Utah buckled under pressure from one of the NBA’s best defensive teams. The Jazz finished with 18 turnovers, which led to 24 points for Indiana.
George went down hard after being fouled on a drive to the basket late in the third quarter. George slammed to the floor and appeared to hit his head, but remained in the game to sink both free throws.
Hayward rebounded from a slow start to put together one of his best games since January. In his fourth time playing in his native city, he shot 8 of 15 from the field after being held scoreless until the beginning of the second period. He scored seven straight points in the third quarter, keeping the Jazz in the game while the rest of the offense sputtered.
“I thought I was quiet in the first half, but I was proud of the way we came back and fought against a team with a real good record, especially here at home,” Hayward said.
Hayward, who led Butler to an NCAA championship game appearance in 2010, averaged 12.2 points on 34.1 shooting in 12 games in February. He came into the game having scored only 21 points in four games in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
*Photo courtesy of Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images