Indiana Pacers guard George Hill hit two free throws with 15 seconds left to hold off the Charlotte Bobcats 99-94 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Bobcats got 21 points and nine rebounds from center Al Jefferson. Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Trailing by two, Jefferson put up a jump hook with about 18 seconds left. The shot didn’t score, and Jefferson’s body language suggested he thought he was fouled. Point guard Kemba Walker was forced to foul, and Hill made his free throws to extend Indiana’s lead to four.
Walker attempted a baseline drive, but his layup in traffic failed.
A great start to the third quarter – the Bobcats made eight of their first 11 shots – pushed the Bobcats out ahead by six a few minutes into the third quarter. The Pacers took back the lead and then Bobcats coach Steve Clifford re-inserted center Jefferson just before the end of the period for an 11-foot turnaround jump shot that made it a 3-point deficit entering the final period.
Bobcats small forward Jeff Taylor did a strong job on Pacers superstar Paul George, who missed seven of his first eight shots.
The Bobcats overcame a 10-point first-quarter deficit to trail 56-55 at halftime.
Considering the quality of the Pacers defense – they’re at or near the top of the stats in every significant defensive category – the Bobcats’ 50 percent shooting from the field in the first half was impressive. The Bobcats made 12 of 23 shots in the second quarter, briefly taking a lead of as much as six points on back-to-back drives by reserve shooting guard Ben Gordon.
The Bobcats got a little boost from rookie Cody Zeller, a former Hoosiers star who was playing his first NBA game in Indiana. Zeller finished the first half with five points and four rebounds, and got healthy applause whenever he did something positive.
The Bobcats did a good job defensively against Pacers superstar George, who made just one of his four first-half shots and ended the half with five points. They were less successful against Pacers shooting guard Stephenson, who made 5-of-8 attempts for 10 points. Pacers center Roy Hibbert was active early offensively, scoring 12 first-half points, while adding seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
Clifford did not use new Bobcat Chris Douglas-Roberts in the first half. He was brought in to add depth at small forward while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist recovers from a broken hand.
PACERS 99, BOBCATS 94