NBA

Pacers cruise past Cavaliers

Paul George (24) finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds Saturday.
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)

Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel had plenty of praise for Paul George and Lance Stephenson after Saturday night's 89-74 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Then he went a big leap further about Stephenson.

"Paul George and Lance Stephenson are guys who easily drove the ship tonight," Vogel said of the players who combined for 43 points for the unbeaten Pacers.

"Lance has been our most efficient offensive player this year.

"He has taken a giant step. I want to see him keep it going. It's in his DNA to be aggressive."

Stephenson scored 22 points, including 10 in a 14-4 run midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Pacers a 79-61 lead with 7:46 to play.

George, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and scored all the points in a key third-quarter run for Indiana (3-0).

"We came out with a good, solid defensive job," George said. "Our guards were boxing out, making it easier for our bigger guys. We are still learning. We must still improve."

Dion Waiters scored 17 points, Kyrie Irving had 15 and Anderson Varejao 14 for Cleveland (1-2), which dropped both ends of a two-night road trip after beginning the season with a homecourt win.

Stephenson began the final surge by hitting a 3-pointer from the left side, scored on a layup, drove the lane, then finished the run by knocking down a 28-footer from the left side. That pushed Indiana's lead to 18 points, and both coaches substituted liberally.

Roy Hibbert added 11 points for the Pacers, who played without guard George Hill, who sat out with a sore left hip. Replacing Hill, who scored 19 points in the Pacers' opener, was C.J. Watson, who scored seven points and dished out a team-high six assists.

"A solid `W' for our guys," Vogel said. "Kudos to C.J. and Donald Sloan for stepping up for George Hill."

Cleveland, which had scored the last six points of the third quarter to pull within 62-55, trailed 65-57 early in the fourth quarter.

Stephenson was 7 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. George was 8 of 17 from the field, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.

George fueled the only real run of the first half, starting with a monster jam with 4:06 to go in the first quarter and finishing the 8-2 surge with two free throws as the Pacers took a 21-16 lead after one quarter.

Varejao started out fast for the Cavs, scoring eight points in the first 4:42, but the Pacers began to defend him at the free throw line and he did not score again in the half.

The Pacers shot 42 percent (16 of 38) in the first half to Cleveland's 31 percent (13 of 42) and outrebounded the Cavs 30-25.

Cleveland, which shot 29.2 percent (7 of 24) in the first quarter, improved to 34.9 percent (29 of 83) for the game, their lowest effort since shooting 33.3 percent at Indiana on Dec. 12, 2012.

"I'm happy with the defense," Vogel said. "We're off to a strong start. We have to keep it going. These guys, when the game's on the line, they tighten the screws. I'm happy with the way they handled their business tonight."

The Pacers shot 41.6 percent (32 of 77) and outrebounded Cleveland 51-37.

Cavs coach Mike Brown was able to see a silver lining in it all.

"As crazy as this sounds, I thought tonight was our best offensive night, from the standpoint that the ball moved and bodies moved," he said. "Just watching the game, I thought we tried to play with some flow.

"I thought we tried to move the basketball. We had weak-side shots open. We had more of those today than any other time, whether it's Brooklyn or Charlotte, even in preseason, they just didn't go down.

"Having said that, you have to give the Pacers credit. They're a playoff team. They're an Eastern Conference finals team. Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay for it."

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Waiters said it was easy to find the difference between the teams.

"They made shots," he said. "They got to the foul line and we didn't.

"It just didn't fall, shots that we normally make. There are going to be nights like this."

NOTES: Indiana has won seven straight and 14 of 15 against Cleveland. . With six rebounds, Varejao ran his total to 3,565, surpassing Larry Nance (3,561) as the Cavs' No. 6 all-time rebounder. . The Pacers blocked six shots, bringing their NBA-leading total to 36.

Tagged: Cavaliers, Pacers, Anderson Varejao, George Hill, Paul George, Lance Stephenson

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