Indiana Pacers forward Paul George had terrorized the Charlotte Hornets all night to the tune of 32 points.
But the biggest shot of the game – George’s potential game-winner at the final buzzer – was a 17-foot jump shot that banged off the front rim, allowing the Charlotte Hornets to survive 96-95 at Bankers Life Arena.
This was a big one, improving the Hornets to 31-27. They won both games in Indianapolis clinched the season series – and tiebreaker – by beating the Pacers in Charlotte next week.
The Pacers gained possession down one with 34 seconds left when George interc/epted Cody Zeller’s tap intended for Kemba Walker. George raced down court with the ball, but Courtney Lee managed to tap the ball out of bounds to stop the fast break.
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Then Pacers guard Monte Ellis took Walker off the dribble for a go-ahead layup with 16 seconds left. Walker couldn’t take a foul because he already had committed five and would have been disqualified.
Walker responded with a weaving drive to the rim for a layup that put the Hornets back ahead 96-95 with 2.4 seconds left.
The Hornets had led by as many as 14 points in the second half before turnovers and some Pacers offensive rebounds chipped away at the lead. Nic Batum committed five turnovers.
Three who mattered
Marvin Williams: He was red-hot much of the night from 3-point range (5-of-9) after a poor game Wednesday in Cleveland.
Paul George: What a terrific season after missing most of the last one with a compound fracture.
Kemba Walker: He had a double-double with a season-high 10 assists to go with 22 points.
▪ Hornets coach Steve Clifford said pre-game he’s impressed so far with point guard Jorge Gutierrez, playing on a 10-day contract: “He’s bright, he’s tough, he has a good feel for the game.”
▪ The Hornets have until the end of the month to decide whether to re-sign Gutierrez to a second 10-day contract.
▪ Clifford said that, with the exception of costly turnovers, the Hornets were more than good enough offensively Wednesday to beat the Cavaliers. The Hornets averaged 1.1 point per possession, which Clifford called “Golden State-like.”
▪ Pretty busy sports week in Indianapolis. The Pacers were on an extended homestand, just as the NFL descended on Indy for the Scouting Combine and Lucas Oil Stadium.
▪ Former Carolina Panthers general manager Bill Polian, now an ESPN analyst, was at Bankers Life Arena Wednesday for the Pacers-Knicks game.
▪ Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was at Pacers-Hornets.
▪ Pacers forward Paul George swished a shot halfway between midcourt and the 3-point line to end the first half.
▪ Fourteen of 19 Hornets baskets in the first half came off assists.
B-minus OFFENSE: The three-point shooting was solid, but Batum’s turnovers were trouble.
B DEFENSE: The Hornets gave up a lot of offensive rebounds in the second half.
B COACHING: Clifford’s message at practice Thursday – cleaning up the ball-movement is imperative – resonated for the first half.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell