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Pacers overtake Rockets with fourth-quarter surge

Mar 18, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (0, right) handles the ball defended by Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon (&) during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Malcolm Brogdon scored 25 points while Goga Bitadze added 23 on perfect shooting as the visiting Indiana Pacers rallied for a 121-118 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday.

The Rockets seized a 106-97 lead on a Jalen Green alley-oop dunk with 5:56 to play. Brogdon subsequently drilled a 3-pointer that keyed the comeback.

Buddy Hield added another trey, and when Bitadze scored through a foul at the 1:06 mark, the Pacers pulled even at 115-115. Bitadze gave Indiana the lead for good with 19.2 seconds left when he converted an offensive rebound. He finished 9 for 9 from the floor and grabbed nine rebounds.

Christian Wood posted 32 points and 13 rebounds while recording a career-high seven rebounds for the Rockets. Green added 20 points and six assists while Kevin Porter Jr. chipped in 19 points. Alperen Sengun scored 15 points off the bench for Houston.

Wood and Brogdon engaged in a riveting back-and-forth in the third quarter, with Wood keying a 16-2 run that opened the frame. Wood scored eight points during that blitz, including a pair of 3-pointers, the final one pushing Houston to a 72-63 lead. But Brogdon repeatedly returned serve to keep Indiana close, tallying 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the period.

Wood paired 20 points with six rebounds in the frame and lifted Houston to a 95-83 lead entering the fourth. Down the stretch, Brogdon and Bitadze proved too much for the Rockets.

Bitadze and Jalen Smith combined to set a bruising tone for the Pacers in the first half, totaling 29 points on 13-of-14 shooting plus 12 rebounds. Yet despite their dominance, the Rockets faced just a five-point deficit at the intermission.

Indiana lost Smith with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter when he took a blow to the face on a Wood crosscourt pass. Smith remained on the floor for several minutes before trudging back to the locker room with Indiana trailing 85-80. Smith finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in only 13 minutes off the bench.

–Field Level Media