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Indiana Pacers blow lead, finally slip past New York Knicks

By Larry Fleisher, The Sports Xchange
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Indiana Pacers blow lead, finally slip past New York Knicks
New York Knicks' Kyle O'Quinn and Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner land on the court reaching for a loose ball in the first half at Madison Square Garden in New York City on April 3, 2016. The Pacers defeated the Knicks 92-87. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK -- Paul George headed to the bench late in the third quarter and expected to have the rest of the game off to rest his sore left ankle.

He sat on the bench getting treatment, but the Indiana Pacers' 18-point lead kept shrinking.

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Instead sitting out the while fourth quarter, George wound up hitting the tiebreaking shot with 23.9 seconds remaining as the Pacers held on for a 92-87 victory over the New York Knicks.

George led the Pacers with 20 points. his biggest moment occurred when he took an inbounds pass from Monta Ellis with eight seconds left on the shot clock. After getting the pass from Ellis along the left wing, he gained enough separation from Arron Afflalo and released a 19-foot jumper in front of the Knicks' bench for an 89-87 lead.

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"I knew I could just get to a spot," George said. "I like that side of the court. It was just about getting to a spot and raising over him."

The clutch basket came after the Pacers said George was questionable to return early in the fourth. The team hoped George would sit and rest, but what had been a 68-50 game and was 68-55 when he checked out with 3:46 left in the third turned into a tight battle.

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"When I checked out, we were up by a nice margin. I was preparing to be out for the rest of the game," George said. "I put a heat pack on and was icing on the sideline. The game got back into a close game, and I told (the coach) I would be available if you need me."

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The Pacers entered the fourth with a 74-65 lead and held an 80-76 edge when George returned with 6:22 remaining. George had a short jumper blocked by Robin Lopez nearly two minutes later in a three-point game and committed a turnover with 3:48 left.

The Knicks tied the game at 85 with 2:31 left and at 87 with 59.3 seconds remaining. George's game-winning play then came after Sasha Vujacic missed a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left and Ellis missed a layup on the next possession.

"It wasn't at the buzzer, but that's a game-winner for Paul George," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.

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George's basket gave the Pacers the lead for good, but they had to survive a wild sequence.

They had a 91-87 advantage when Afflalo appeared to hit a 3-pointer with 16.8 seconds left, but after a review, officials ruled his foot was out of bounds when he caught the ball.

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After George Hill committed a turnover on an inbounds play, Afflalo missed a 3-pointer with 10.8 seconds to go.

The outcome was sealed when Afflalo missed another 3-point attempt with 1.9 seconds remaining.

George's dramatic shot kept the Pacers (41-36) tied with the Detroit Pistons for the final two Eastern Conference playoff positions, two games ahead of the ninth-place Chicago Bulls.

It also was the second consecutive night Indiana struggled to get a victory against one of the worst teams in the conference. The Pacers rallied from six points down to win Saturday at Philadelphia.

"These were must wins for us," George said.

The Pacers won despite shooting 4-for-16 and committing four turnovers in the fourth quarter. Rodney Stuckey scored 17 points for Indiana, and Myles Turner contributed 12.

The Knicks (31-47) fell to 0-9 without Carmelo Anthony, who was given the night. New York also played without Kristaps Porzingis (shoulder). Vujacic led New York with 21 points, while Afflalo added 13 of his 15 in the fourth quarter.

Lopez finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots.

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Vujacic said of his last-minute miss, "I'm mad at myself that I didn't make it because I live for moments like that."

The backcourt duo of Vujacic and Afflalo scored 20 of New York's 22 points in the fourth, but they combined to miss their final five shots.

Before sitting, George scored 12 points in the third, including 11 in a span of 2 1/2 minutes as the Pacers expanded their 13-point halftime lead. They allowed the Knicks to get within five but took a nine-point lead into the fourth when Ty Lawson's jumper beat the buzzer, but the Knicks stormed back before falling short.

"We really gave ourselves a great chance to win, and if we had played that way to start the ballgame and finished it out in the first half, we probably would have come away with the win," Knicks coach Kurt Rambis said.

NOTES: New York F Kristaps Porzingis (sore right shoulder) missed his third consecutive game. He said he hopes to return before the season ends April 13, although interim coach Kurt Rambis said the rookie has not begun shooting yet. ... The Knicks rested F Carmelo Anthony. Rambis said it was a one-time occurrence. ... Indiana coach Frank Vogel said F Paul George has not expressed any desire to rest, and Vogel doesn't plan to give him a game off. George returned from his serious leg injury on April 5, 2015. ... New York G Jose Calderon (right quad contusion) missed his second straight game. Rambis did not have any update on his status. ... Rambis also said he does not anticipate F Lance Thomas (sprained left MCL) returning this season. Thomas has not played since March 5 against the Detroit Pistons.

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