INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Pacers guard Jeff Teague looked like a natural playing a leading role Monday night.
With Paul George struggling and the Pacers in desperate need of a win, the former All-Star jumped in and didn’t miss a beat. Teague had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists to help Indiana fend off the road-weary Utah Jazz 107-100.
"We played well tonight, we played hard, we were a group out there," Teague said. "Defensively, I think we did a really great job."
The Pacers kept up an uncanny trend of trading wins and losses. They haven’t done either in back-to-back games since mid-February and need to change direction if they intend to maintain or improve upon their current No. 6 position in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Of course, it wasn’t easy; nothing has been this season for Indiana.
But having a fill-in like Teague when George isn’t shooting well helped Monday — and could prove more beneficial in the post-season.
George finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists despite going 6 of 20 from the field and not making a basket until the 8:41 mark of the third quarter.
Instead, Teague and his teammates made just enough plays until George finally got on track, scoring the last seven Indiana points to seal it.
"It was time to win a ballgame," George said after waving his arms and shouting to the crowd. "I would have been ashamed if we fought that hard, especially on a back-to-back where we’ve given all our energy, and lost a game late."
Former Butler star Gordon Hayward scored a career-high 38 points to lead the Jazz, who have lost three straight. Rudy Gobert added 16 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high eight blocks on the final stop of Utah’s four-game road trip.
"I would have rather had zero points and won the game," Hayward said.
After an early 8-0 run, the Pacers never trailed again.
When Utah cut the lead to 30-28 early in the second quarter, Indiana scored seven straight.
The Jazz got within two late in the first half only to watch Glenn Robinson III bank in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to make it 51-46.
When Utah got within 55-54 early in the third quarter, the Pacers scored five straight points before closing the third quarter on a 10-2 spurt to make it 80-70.
And when George Hill’s three-point play cut the Pacers’ lead to 103-100 with 1:45 left, Indiana’s defence came up big on consecutive possessions to set up George’s 20-foot jumper with 18.9 seconds left.
Jazz: Hayward and Hill, the former Pacers guard, both received ovations during pregame introductions. … Hill scored 16 points in his first game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since being traded last summer. … Utah drew two defensive three-second calls in the first 16 minutes and was called for another in the fourth quarter.
Pacers: Indiana earned a split in the season series by snapping a three-game losing streak to the Jazz. … Myles Turner had 16 points, six rebounds and four blocks. … Indiana was 10 of 20 on 3s. … George missed his first eight shots.
Hayward didn’t just have a big night in his hometown, it was a milestone game. He scored 20 of Utah’s 46 points in the first half, finished 16 of 24 from the field and held George mostly in check. The 38 points also were the most in any game by a Jazz player since Paul Millsap had 46 in 2010.
Utah also finished with its highest block total as a team (11) since 2006.
Robinson almost duplicated his buzzer-beating feat at the end of the third-quarter with another 3-pointer, but the ball sailed just long and bounced off the back of the rim.
Jazz: Will return home Wednesday with a chance to pull off their first season sweep of New York Knicks since 2009-10.
Pacers: Need to win at Boston on Wednesday to avoid a three-game season sweep.