The Indiana Pacers almost let another double-digit slip away, but hung on this time.
One night after blowing an early 13-point lead in a one-point road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pacers led by as many as 19 in the first half and by 12 entering the final quarter against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
”Last night, we didn’t close the game out against the Lakers but we learned from that and we got the win tonight,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert said in an on-court interview televised by Fox Sports Midwest.
Hibbert had a team-high 22 points and eight rebounds.
“I just tried to establish myself and not settle for jump shots,” he said, “just trying to be as effective as possible and my teammates were looking for me.”
Hibbert had a season-high 29 points in a Nov. 10 home win over Utah, but fouled out in the final minute of this game. He admitted the drawn-out fouling and free-throw shooting at the end “felt like an eternity.”
Derrick Favors hit a pair of foul shots to get the Jazz to within 101-100 before Miles was fouled and made his free throws. Gordon Hayward hit one of two foul shots, then Hill closed it out at the line as he made two free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining.
The Pacers (14-22) have won two of three on their four-game road trip and six of nine overall.
“We challenged them to respond to a loss,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We came out of the gates strong and played a strong basketball game. They turned it into a possession game late in the game, that’s why they scored 39 points (in the fourth quarter). We didn’t get enough stops, but we took care of the basketball for the most part, we made our free throws and we closed out the game.”
The Pacers converted 28-of-30 free throws. The Jazz made 27-of-34.
Indiana led 31-16 after the first quarter, 53-39 at halftime and 74-62 entering the fourth. The Jazz (12-23) trailed by double digits for much of the game after a Miles 3-pointer provided a 24-12 early advantage.
Favors led the Jazz (12-23) with a game-high 27 points. Former Brownsburg High School and Butler University star Gordon Hayward scored 24.
Pacers point guard George Hill missed his third consecutive game with a strained groin. Watson, sidelined the previous two games with a sore foot, returned to start at point guard and had nine points.
After a day off, the Pacers close out the road trip at Golden State (26-5), which has the NBA’s best record. The Pacers’ next home game is Friday against the Boston Celtics (11-21).
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.