It was not looking good. The Indiana Pacers were headed straight for their third blowout defeat after falling behind by 20 heading in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Tuesday night. Coach Frank Vogel had already been tossed after incurring two technicals and the entire team struggled to contain Kyrie Irving.
But somehow, miraculously, the Pacers fought back. It wasn't pretty, but they dug deep on defense and got a few lucky breaks along the way, arguably thanks to the refs on more than one occasion. George Hill, who went toe-to-tie with Irving for most of the night and finished with 27 points, was huge down the stretch. Paul George, who shot poorly again, finally awoke at the right time and knocked down some big shots to finish with 14, including a huge three-pointer to put the Pacers up by three with 30 seconds to go.
On the next play, Irving drove past Hill and down the lane, drawing contact with Jeff Pendergraph before banking in a tough shot. The original ruling was a charge, and replays showed that Pendergraph tip-toed just outside the restricted area. Pendergraph was fouled and hit one of two free throws to stretch the lead to three, and Wayne Ellington missed a three-pointer before Paul George iced it with two more free thows.
Game over. Pacers escape from grim death to win 99-94 and improve to 49-29 on the season.
In all honesty this was a disgraceful effort for three quarters by the Pacers, and they probably deserved to lose their third in a row. Perhaps this lucky escape will help them realize that the playoffs are just around the corner and it's time to shift it into the next gear. Right now the team looks a little fatigued, but they really don't have any time to rest now with games against the Nets, Knicks, Celtics and 76ers to finish out the season.