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Pacers rally in second half to defeat Hornets

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — George Hill wasn’t looking to be the hero for the Indiana Pacers Sunday night.

But when the heavens opened up and the seventh-year point guard found himself wide open under the basket, he was more than happy to hit the game-winning shot.

Hill’s turnaround floater with 5.1 seconds remaining capped a rally from a 21-point second-half deficit and gave the Pacers a wild 103-102 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

Hill took an inbounds pass on the right wing, drove the baseline all the way under the basket and looked to pass to an open teammate, preferably guard C.J. Watson or forward David West. But two Charlotte defenders backed off him, leaving him wide open. He pivoted, turned around, and hit from nearly point-blank range.

His first thought at being so wide open?

“This is money,” he said. “That’s my shot.”

The Hornets then missed a desperation shot at the buzzer, and the Pacers were headed home with their first three-game winning streak of the season.

“I played pretty bad all game long,” Hill said. “I felt like I let my teammates down kinda on both ends of the floor. But Coach still put the ball in my hands at the end of the game. I was really our last option. I turned the corner to see if C.J. was open, but when I peeked over my shoulder I saw that (Brian) Roberts and (Cody) Zeller were going back to DWest. So I was like, ‘Hey!’ It’s a shot I shoot every day in practice and work on.”

Hill’s shot came after forward Marvin Williams had given the Hornets a 102-101 lead with a 3-pointer with 14.7 seconds remaining.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel laughed afterward that the play unfolded exactly as he had drawn it up.

“That was the plan, drive and they’re all going to leave you wide open at the basket,” Vogel said. “It was a play for him to make a basket attack. We call that Nash Action. Steve Nash would dribble on the baseline and look for shooters and cutters. And sometimes they leave you. So that is something we work on throughout the course of the season and George just made a great play.”

The Pacers had trailed by 17 points at halftime and were down 76-55 with 5:03 remaining in the third quarter. But they ended the quarter with a 20-7 run, then scored the first six points of the fourth quarter. From there, the game was tight the rest of the way.

The Pacers (20-32) have now won three straight and five of their last seven after snapping a seven-game losing streak in January.

“This is huge,” Vogel said. “We’re trying to turn our season around. We had a lot of struggles early in the year. I talked all along about how it was going to turn for us, just stay with it and keep grinding. And a couple good wins this week have hopefully put us in the right direction.”

Watson came off the bench to lead the Pacers with 22 points, including five 3-pointers. Forward Luis Scola also played a big role in the comeback and finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. West and guard Rodney Stuckey also scored 15, and Hill finished with 11.

The Hornets (22-29) lost for the second time in two nights, after an 89-81 loss at Philadelphia Saturday night.

Center Al Jefferson led the Hornets with 30 points and 13 rebounds, but didn’t get the ball again after hitting a free throw with 1:36 left for a 99-95 lead.

The Hornets also got 19 points from Roberts, 13 from guard Gerald Henderson, 11 from guard Gary Neal, and 10 from Williams.

“The story of the game should be the third quarter,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “We had a good first half. We came out the start of the third quarter with nothing. We regrouped and got the lead back up and then the last four and a half, five minutes of the third quarter, we just played as bad a basketball as we’ve played all year. We were totally disorganized. Random, awful basketball on both ends of the floor.”

NOTES: The Hornets paid tribute to Dean Smith with a video and moment of silence before the game. Smith, who was Hornets owner Michael Jordan’s college coach at North Carolina, died Saturday night. … Hornets F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (right hamstring strain) sat out after getting injured in the loss at Philadelphia Saturday night. The Hornets also continue to be without G Kemba Walker (left knee surgery) and C Bismack Biyombo (right knee contusion). … The Pacers were without F Lavoy Allen (sore right knee) and C Ian Mahinmi (sprained right ankle), and have been without F Paul George (fractured right leg) all season. … The Pacers have now won two of the three games between the teams this season. They’ll meet again at Indiana April 3. … The Hornets are now 6-7 on the second night of back-to-backs. They will play a league-high 21 sets of back-to-backs this season. … The Pacers were starting a back-to-back set. They’ll return home to face San Antonio Monday. … The Hornets will play their final game before the All-Star break at home Tuesday against Detroit.

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

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