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Pacers hang on to defeat Jazz

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SALT LAKE CITY — Watching the final minute of a close game from the bench wasn’t what Indiana center Roy Hibbert had in mind. There wasn’t much Hibbert could do about it.

He fouled out with 55.7 seconds left as the Utah Jazz mounted a late rally against the Pacers. Even though he could not do anything personally to stop the comeback, Hibbert put full confidence in his teammates to get the job done.

“I told my guys I believed in each and every one of them,” Hibbert said. “I knew it would eventually come down to a free-throw game and rebounds. Those guys went up there and sank a couple of good free throws.”

It played out just as Hibbert predicted. Guard C.J. Miles and forward Solomon Hill each sank a pair of free throws in the final seconds to help Indiana survive and beat Utah 105-101 on Monday night.

Hibbert scored 22 points and collected eight rebounds to lift the Pacers (14-22) to their third win in four games. He made an impact on both ends of the court and did just enough to help Indiana prevail in a contest that grew closer than expected late.

“I’m just trying to be effective as possible and try to take good shots,” Hibbert said. “Looking back into last year and this summer, I learned sometimes things aren’t going to go my way. I may have games where I don’t play well, but I can always be locked in and be mentally strong. If it’s not going on the offensive end, play defense.”

Forward Luis Scola added 16 points off the bench while Miles and guard Rodney Stuckey chipped in 13 apiece.

Forward Derrick Favors had 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Jazz (12-23), who trailed by as many as 19 points before mounting a comeback. Forward Gordon Hayward chipped in 24 points and seven rebounds for Utah, and guard Dante Exum tied a season high with 13 points.

The Jazz rallied to make it a one-possession game in the final seconds. Hayward hit a pair of free throws to cut Indiana’s lead to three and then, after a steal by Booker, Favors drained two more to make it 101-100 with 9.5 seconds left.

But Miles and Hill each made a pair of free throws in the final seconds to secure the win for the Pacers.

“For the most part, I think we played extremely hard,” Hayward said. “We just seemed to miss a lot of shots. We turned it up defensively and for the most part were more active and more urgent (in the second half). We had a great comeback — just fell a little short.”

Indiana broke the game wide open in the first quarter. The Pacers shot 63 percent from the field in the quarter while holding Utah to 32 percent shooting.

It allowed Indiana to quickly carve out a double-digit lead. Guard C.J. Watson hit a 3-pointer to spark a 9-0 run that put the Pacers in front 13-6. The Jazz came back within a basket when Favors scored on a reverse layup to make it 15-12.

Indiana responded with another big run. Hibbert made hook shots on back-to-back possessions to fuel a 16-4 spurt to end the quarter that gave the Pacers a 31-16 lead.

Utah’s fortunes did not improve in the second quarter. Indiana led by as many as 19 points in the quarter, going up 48-29 on a jumper from Stuckey with 3:29 remaining before halftime.

The Jazz only made a small dent before the half ended. Guard Joe Ingles scored a pair of baskets and fed Favors for an alley-oop dunk to cut the deficit to 51-39 in the final minute before halftime.

Ingles blamed Utah’s sluggish first-half start on the team adjusting to a shortened rotation missing several key players.

“When you are missing three pretty important players, it’s a whole different game,” Ingles said. “The good thing is our team and our offense and the way we play is pretty team oriented. Everyone passes the ball. We played pretty well. Just that first half got us.”

Utah started 0-for-9 from 3-point range before Exum made back-to-back 3-pointers to finally break the ice in the third quarter. It trimmed Indiana’s lead to 60-50. Like the second quarter, the Pacers held onto a double-digit lead from start to finish because the Jazz went 5:16 without making a field goal.

A comeback finally materialized for Utah near the end of the third. With the Pacers leading 72-55, Utah center Rudy Gobert scored on a dunk and a layup on back-to-back possessions to ignite a 19-6 run.

By the time forward Trevor Booker capped the run with a jumper off a steal from guard Elijah Millsap, the Jazz had cut Indiana’s lead to 78-74 with 7:58 remaining in the fourth.

Guard Donald Sloan drilled a 3-pointer to spark a 13-4 run to give Indiana some breathing room again. It ended with Hill converting a pair of three-point plays to give the Pacers a 91-78 lead with 4:15 left.

Utah did not fade away. The Jazz eventually tallied 39 points in the fourth quarter to give Indiana cause for worry in the final seconds.

Their ability to close out has Pacers coach Frank Vogel feeling like his team is making progress.

“We didn’t get enough stops, but we took care of the basketball for the most part,” Vogel said. “We made our free throws and closed out the game.”

NOTES: Jazz G Dante Exum made his first career NBA start. Exum filled in for Trey Burke, who missed the game with a case of strep throat. … Indiana entered the night with the third-best rebounding margin in the NBA (plus-2.8 per game). The Pacers were averaging 45.2 rebounds per game, which ranked sixth. … C Rudy Gobert leads Utah with 1.9 blocks per game. Gobert ranked sixth among NBA players in that category through the weekend. He had a career-high six blocks against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. … Indiana is 12-2 when leading after three quarters. Before Monday, the Pacers were allowing just 22.6 points per game in the fourth quarter — fewest in the NBA.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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