INDIANAPOLIS — After the Pacers fell behind against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana coach Frank Vogel decided to fire his team up.
Two quick technical in the third quarter did the trick.
“We didn’t want to let him down,” Paul George said after the Pacers rallied from a 20-point deficit for a 99-94 win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.
George Hill scored 27 points and David West added 15 for Indiana. George chipped in with 14 points, Lance Stephenson had 13 and Tyler Hansbrough 12 for the Pacers, who can clinch the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with a win over Brooklyn on Friday.
Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and Indiana native Tyler Zeller had 18 before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter for Cleveland, which allowed the Pacers to break off a 25-4 run in the fourth for a 93-92 lead.
Irving hit two free throws to put Cleveland up 94-93, but George knocked down a 3-pointer with 29.9 seconds left to put the Pacers back in front. Jeff Pendergraph then drew a charge on Irving on the ensuing possession and Indiana held on.
The Pacers came to life after coach Frank Vogel was ejected in the third quarter for arguing with officials.
“When coach went out, we really had to pull it together,” George said. “We knew the fourth quarter is the way we play. We were really struggling.
“We couldn’t have three blowouts in a row. We want to close the season out on a good foot.”
Irving and Zeller kept the Cavs alive in the first quarter after the Pacers jumped out to a 20-8 lead. Zeller hit three jumpers from the right elbow and finished the quarter with 14 points — nearly double his season average.
The Cavs cut the lead to 29-26 after the first 12 minutes.
Indiana’s defence struggled for the third consecutive game before picking it up in the fourth.
“We just gave a couple of shots to them,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “Transition defence, I think they average 11 for the season and they had 33 tonight. That’s the game, simple as that.
“It seems like (we let up). You would think after three times we’d learn, after two times really. But obviously we didn’t.”
The Cavs led 53-48 at halftime while shooting 51.1 per cent from the field and despite just two free throw attempts in the half.
The Pacers shot 31.6 per cent from the field in the second quarter and 38.1 per cent in the opening half. They ended the first quarter with a shot clock violation and added two more in the first 2:14 of the second. Indiana had five violations in the game.
“That was a crazy one,” Vogel said. “Proud of my coaching staff for pulling out the win and pulling the right strings.”
Indiana was outscored 31-16 in the third quarter.
Notes: The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Pacers. … Cleveland came in ranked 29th in the league NBA in field goal percentage.