The point guard scored 12 of his team-high 29 points in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning layup with 2.7 seconds remaining, as the Pacers snapped their six-game losing streak with a 103-101 road victory over the Washington Wizards Wednesday at Verizon Center.
The Pacers (31-40) had trailed by 10 points in the final quarter, but rallied behind their floor leader, who scored 10 of the Pacers’ last 15 points.
Hill drove down the right side of the paint and with his right hand scooped the deciding shot off glass against late-arriving Wizards 6-11 forward Nene and guard Ramon Sessions, who leaped but were unable to get to the ball.
After a half-court desperation shot sailed high over the backboard, the Pacers celebrated by mobbing Hill. Teammates as well as head coach Frank Vogel gave him a hug.
“Just grind it out, you know,” Hill said in an on-court TV interview with Fox Sports Indiana. “It was kind of rough for me a little bit in the third (quarter), things not going the way I wanted it to go, missing easy shots. But you’ve got to tip your hat to coach Vogel still having trust in me to put me in there to make plays.”
Hill played a season-high 42 minutes, 39 seconds, in an exhausting effort considering he had to defend Wizards All-Star guard John Wall, who scored a season-high 34 points. Wall tied the game with a 3-pointer in the final minute.
“I mean, very worn out,” said Hill after his fifth 20-point game in the last seven starts. “All of these guys did a great job, kept lifting me up. It’s tough to guard a guy, an All-Star like John Wall, and try to attack him on the offensive end at the same time.”
The Pacers pulled even with the Boston Celtics (31-40) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, although the Celtics own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Charlotte Hornets (30-40) and Brooklyn Nets (30-40) are one-half game back. The Miami Heat (33-38) are two games ahead in seventh.
“It’s big for us,” said Hill, who also had nine assists and seven rebounds. “It puts us back in the category of (being) able to compete with the big teams. That’s a good team down there in that locker room. We’ve just got to build off of it.”
The Wizards (40-32) have lost four in a row. Indiana prevailed on the road for just the 13th time in 35 road games and it was just the seventh time the Pacers have won when trailing entering the fourth quarter.
The Pacers trailed by as many as 13 in the first half before rallying to reduce the Wizards’ lead to 44-42 by halftime.
Indiana took a four-point lead early in the third quarter after Solomon Hill hit a 3-pointer. But four turnovers allowed the Wizards to regain control and take a 76-70 advantage into the final quarter. Washington eventually led by 10 as Wall kept hit shots and the Pacers missed six free throws over a span of several minutes.
Then Hill brought his team back. He hit an inside bank shot and a driving layup to cut the deficit to 94-90. After a Solomon Hill free throw, George Hill converted a steal into a layup to force a Wizards timeout. After yet another turnover, Hill scored inside to push the visitors ahead and then hit a jumper to make it 97-94.
West’s inside hook shot pushed the margin back to three at 99-96 just inside the final minute. That was Hill’s ninth assist.
The Wizards missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer, blocked a shot to get the ball back and Rasual Butler converted a pair of free throws to make it 99-98 with 20.2 seconds remaining.
Indiana called a timeout, couldn’t get the ball inbounds and burned another. Miles was then fouled with 19.2 seconds remaining and sank both for a 101-98 advantage. But Wall came off a screen to hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 11.2 seconds remaining.
That set the stage for Hill, who caught the inbounds pass, dribbled the ball at the top of the key to let the clock wind down, then drove for the dramatic basket.
“I just wanted to win the game,” he said.
The Pacers are at the Milwaukee Bucks (35-36) Thursday night.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.