After C.J. Watson had one of his best nights of the season, Hill finished a comeback from 21 points down as he scored on a turnaround, baseline jumper with 4.9 seconds remaining for a 103-102 road win over the Charlotte Hornets Sunday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Pacers (20-32) have now won three in a row. And like two other previous games against the Hornets, this one would be close.
Watson, Hill’s point guard backup, scored 13 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter as the visitors outscored the Hornets 28-19 in the final 12 minutes. The point total was one shy of Watson’s season high.
Marvin Williams gave the Hornets a 102-101 lead on a 3-pointer with 14.4 seconds remaining. The Pacers called a pair of timeouts, and when a play designed for David West broke down, Hill sped inside and underneath the basket before pulling up on the baseline for his game-winning basket over the outstretched hand of Charlotte’s Cody Zeller.
Charlotte didn’t have any timeouts, which meant the Hornets had to rush up the floor for a final desperation shot, a Brian Roberts’ 3-pointer from about 35 feet that clanked long off the back iron at the buzzer.
Watson said in a postgame radio interview on ESPN The Fan 1070-AM that the Hornets took away West and Charlotte also stayed close to Watson and C.J. Miles outside on the wings, so it cleared space for Hill to drive.
“G-Hill had a wide open lane and made the shot,” Watson said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go. We’ve got to keep it up. We can’t get comfortable because we’ve still got a lot of work to do. It’s not set in stone yet. So we’ve got to keep working hard and keep winning games.”
Hill has started just six games this season due to knee and quad injuries. But his presence in the last three has been most noticeable as the Pacers’ offense has picked up.
It just took a while this time. The Pacers trailed by 21 points in the third quarter. They outscored the Hornets 54-36 in the second half to erase a 17-point halftime deficit.
“We just tried to play a little harder in the second half and that’s what we did,” said Watson, who scored 15 of his team-high total on five 3-pointers.
"We're just trying to put some good basketball together," West told FOX Sports Indiana's Jeremiah Johnson after the game. "We still have a belief that we can make this happen. We're a couple spots out, just going to keep fighting every game.”
The Hornets (22-29) are among the teams just ahead of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings. Indiana is two games behind the Miami Heat (21-29) and Brooklyn Nets (21-29) in pursuit of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Hornets center Al Jefferson led all scorers with 30 points, and had 13 rebounds. Roberts scored 19 points.
The first time these two teams met back in Indianapolis, Solomon Hill won it for the Pacers with a last-second tip-in. When they played again in Charlotte, it took extra minutes as the Hornets prevailed in overtime.
"I think our guys just recognized the moment, the urgency of this game," Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said. "This is a big game against a team that we're chasing and a game that we felt like we had to get.”
The Pacers host the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs (32-18) Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.