INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana has already shifted into playoff gear.
Now the Pacers must prove they belong.
C.J. Miles scored the final five Indiana points and had 28 overall Sunday night to give the Pacers a 104-99 victory over Dallas — a win that put them in a tie with Boston for the No. 9 spot in the East.
"We are just in a time right now where we need to win all our games," Miles said. "Everything is a must win."
That's no surprise for this team, given all the challenges it has faced this season.
Paul George is still recovering from his broken right leg and the Pacers fell into a deep, early hole when starters George Hill and David West missed significant time over the first two months of the season. After getting healthy and rallying to move within striking distance of the No. 6 seed, Indiana lost seven of its next eight to fall into the No. 10 spot.
Now, with nine games left -- and questions about George's return lingering — the Pacers have no margin for error and are starting to play like it.
Indiana snapped a four-game home losing streak and won for only the second time in nine games by rallying from a seven-point deficit in the third quarter and going toe-to-toe with the high-scoring Mavericks (45-29) the rest of the night.
Hill scored eight of his 14 points in an 8-2 spurt that broke an 89-89 tie in the fourth. And Miles delivered the knockout punch by making a 3 to give Indiana a 102-97 lead with a minute left. He sealed it with two free throws with 1.7 seconds left.
"They're a good team, they put you in some tough situations," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said about the Pacers.
The short-handed Mavericks dealt were dealing their own problems Sunday, too.
Leading scorer Monta Ellis missed the game with a lower right leg injury, and backup guard J.J. Berea sat out with a sprained left ankle.
Their teammates tried to make up for those absences. Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 points, Rajon Rondo had 17 points and 10 assists, and Chandler Parsons scored 27 points but missed a 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds to go that could have forced overtime.
Instead, Miles grabbed the rebound and made two free throws.
"We're trying to pick up wins," Pacers forward David West said after finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. "I just thought we stayed strong."
Indiana didn't have a choice.
After a 33-27 first-quarter evaporated in the second quarter and falling behind 68-61 early in the third, the desperate Pacers finally got it together.
They cut the deficit to 70-68 midway through the third, tied the score at 74 and eventually regained the lead early in the fourth.
Dallas answered Hill's scoring flurry with six straight points to tie it at 97, but Roy Hibbert broke the tie with two free throws and Miles followed with the 3.
"Everyone's got to put on their hard hats, go out there and continue to fight until the end of the game," Hill said. "Every guy in this locker room made a great effort to give us a win tonight."
Mavericks: Dallas started the fourth quarter shooting 54.5 percent from 3-point range but missed their last four to finish 6 of 15. ... Coach Rick Carlisle remains five wins behind Don Nelson's franchise record (339). Carlisle is third on the Pacers' career wins list, too, with 181.
Pacers: Indiana, in contrast, made its first six 3-pointers then missed five straight. Rodney Stuckey ended the drought with a 3 that tied the score at 89, and Hill followed that with two more 3s. ... Indiana's lead after the first quarter was its first in 11 games.
Indiana improved to 5-0 this season when wearing its 1980s throwback uniforms, the ones designed by the late Florence Griffith-Joyner. Sunday's win came with a special twist. The daughter of the former Olympic track and field star, Mary Joyner, sang the national anthem. Joyner appeared on the television show "America's Got Talent" in 2012.
Mavericks: At Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.
Pacers: At Brooklyn on Tuesday night.
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