HOUSTON -- The Indiana Pacers had beguiled the Houston Rockets so convincingly with their small lineup that there was no reason for them to utilize traditional personnel with the outcome up for grabs late in overtime.
But after shooting their way into a lead with a hail of 3-pointers, the Rockets mustered the defensive might late to fend off the Pacers 107-103 in overtime on Sunday night at Toyota Center.
The Rockets twice forced Pacers guard Monta Ellis into misses inside the final 37 seconds, with both attempts coming after Houston forward Corey Brewer drilled a corner 3 for a 105-103 lead with 40.9 seconds left. After surrendering the first six points of overtime, all on layups, the Rockets rallied with treys from guard Patrick Beverley (16 points, six assists), forward Trevor Ariza (season-high 24 points), and Brewer (12).
Indiana (21-16) had torched the Rockets (19-19) with its backcourt depth, but the Rockets made a stand when the moment was most dire.
"Monta Ellis is one of the fastest guards in the league with the ball so it's very tough," Rockets center Dwight Howard said. "We just wanted to make sure we communicated (defensively) and just trusted each other."
Howard paired 21 points with a game-high 17 rebounds while guard James Harden had 21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists -- four in overtime. Houston recorded assists on all five of its overtime field goals.
"That's what I do, not just score the basketball, just getting my teammates shots," Harden said. "They were confident and knocking them down tonight, and that's why we won the game."
Five Pacers scored in double figures led by forward Paul George, who had 20 points but just two following the third period. George also totaled seven steals. Ellis added 11 points and a season-high 13 assists.
Having scuffled for most of the second half, the Rockets suddenly came alive with a 12-1 run midway through the fourth quarter, closing to within 89-88 on a corner 3-pointer from Ariza with 2:58 remaining.
But Ellis and Pacers center Ian Mahinmi (13 points) responded with consecutive baskets before Ariza nailed a 3-pointer with 17.1 seconds left, with Ellis' missed jumper at the buzzer leading to the extra period.
"We did a good job and even in starting the overtime when we got up by six with a couple fast-break points," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Give Houston credit: they hit some big shots and big 3s to get back in the game."
Quality shooting deserted Houston in the third quarter when it shot 4-for-22 and went nearly six minutes without a field goal between a Howard hook shot at the 8:51 mark and a driving layup from Harden with 2:52 remaining. The Pacers' lead reached double digits during that stretch behind George, who poured in 14 points in the third via a wondrous display of offensive versatility including a transition dunk, a corner 3-pointer, and a three-point play that closed the quarter.
The Rockets' offense was pristine in the first, with crisp ball movement yielding open shots and 52 percent shooting. Houston assisted on just seven of its 13 field goals in the period, yet the only thing that slowed its offensive surge was five turnovers. The Pacers had seven in the period.
When Indiana eliminated its miscues in the second, the momentum shifted. The Pacers also got a boost by going small, turning a nine-point deficit following a Brewer 3 with 8:41 left in the half into a 50-45 lead after guard George Hill and forward C.J. Miles drilled consecutive treys.
Indiana sank four 3s during its run to the lead, taking advantage of the Rockets' scrambling defense caused by dribble penetration. When Houston failed to close driving lanes, reserve guards Glenn Robinson III and Rodney Stuckey converted at the rim for Indiana with relative ease.
"We traded baskets after the third quarter and into the fourth quarter," George said after the Pacers bookended a four-game road trip with losses. "We got stagnant and we didn't stick with what was working. It's the same story every game for us."
NOTES: Pacers rookie G Joseph Young graduated from Houston Yates High School and spent his first two collegiate seasons with the University of Houston. He had roughly 100 friends and family in attendance for his professional debut in his hometown. He had three points and two assists in seven minutes. ... Rockets C Dwight Howard (sore back) returned after sitting out Thursday night's victory over the Utah Jazz. ... The Pacers have dropped four consecutive games in their series with Houston for the first time since Feb. 3, 1992-Nov. 18, 1993.