George leads Pacers over Jazz, 95-86

A game after he scored a career-high 43 points, nothing seemed

to be going right for Paul George.

Fighting a cold, his chest was burning and he couldn’t seem to

catch his breath. To make matters worse, his reliable shooting

stroke was faltering.

”It was so hard to find my wind but I didn’t want to make any

excuses. I tried to play through it and find a way to will us to a

win tonight,” said George, who scored 19 points as the Indiana

Pacers returned to their defensive ways in beating the Utah Jazz

95-86 on Wednesday.

George and Pacers primarily did it with defense as they usually

do.

”We struggled but we stuck with what we do best,” said George,

who had a key steal and dunk moments after the Jazz got within two

points midway through the final period. ”We made those guys take

tough shots and, over time, those shots start to get a little short

or a little long. Our defense played a huge part in us getting this

win.”

Lance Stephenson scored 15 points, Luis Scola had 14 and Roy

Hibbert added 13 points to win in Utah for the first time since an

84-60 victory on Nov. 29, 2005.

The Pacers were coming off their first back-to-back games of the

season in which they allowed their opponent to reach 100 points –

L.A. Clippers and Portland. But Indiana outscored the Jazz 27-19 in

the fourth quarter and parlayed 14 Utah turnovers in 20 points.

”They pushed us off our spots,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said.

”They put pressure on us a little bit and threw off our

rhythm.”

Gordon Hayward’s 3-pointer cut the Indiana lead to 79-76 before

the Pacers scored nine straight points, capped by West’s 20-foot

jumper that just beat the shot clock, and never looked back.

”We made the better plays down the stretch. We got what we

wanted, getting open shots because we executed in the fourth

quarter,” West said.

Derrick Favors led Utah with 22 points and 13 rebounds and Enes

Kanter had 20 points and 10 boards for the Jazz, who had won three

of their last four games.

Hayward and George, who have worked out together in the summers

and were picked ninth and 10th in the 2010 draft, both struggled

with their shooting against each other’s tenacious defense.

”It’s always fun playing against Gordon because he’s one of the

few guys in this league that never lets up. I know I always have my

hands full when I face him,” George said.

When George finally made a 3-pointer – his first in eight

attempts – with 53 seconds left, he paused and pointed skyward in

relief at seeing one drop.

”I pointed up to the basketball gods and thanked them. It was

just a relief. I wasn’t able to shoot the ball well and I was just

fatigued out there,” said George, who finished 7 of 20 from the

field after an acrobatic layup with 21 seconds remaining.

Hayward made only 3 of 14 shots and finished with 12 points.

”They are good defensively. They challenged a lot of shots at

the rim and forced us to shoot over the top and we just couldn’t

knock them down,” Hayward said.

Behind 10 points each from Kanter and Favors, the Jazz built an

11-point lead in the first half that evaporated to 48-47 by

halftime. Led by Stephenson, the Pacers used an 18-4 run bridging

the second and third quarters to move in front.

The Pacers are the top defensive team in the league – holding

opponents to 39.5 percent shooting and 87.6 points per game – but

they allowed the Clippers to score 100 points in a win and the

Blazers 106 points in a loss on the current five-game road

trip.

”It was a really good win for our guys, kind of a grind-it-out

type of game,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.

Power forwards Marvin Williams (foot) and Jeremy Evans (flu) sat

out the game for the Jazz but Utah attacked the Pacers for three

quarters and led 69-68 after Kanter’s layup to open the fourth

quarter.

But the deeper into the fourth period they went, the more

difficult it was for the Jazz to score. The Pacers disrupted the

Jazz offensive sets and when Utah found open looks they misfired

down the stretch.

”The altitude and my asthma kicked me in the rear to begin

with. But I got my second wind and I was trying to be a defensive

presence,” said Hibbert, who blocked two shots and altered several

others.

The Pacers’ tough trip concludes with a back-to-back set against

San Antonio on Saturday and Oklahoma City a day later.

NOTES: Jazz rookie Trey Burke had a career-high nine assists. .

Stephenson, upset with an offensive foul call in the fourth

quarter, threw the ball over his shoulder and got a technical foul.

. Kanter looked as if he threw Hibbert to the floor in the final

two minutes but Hibbert gave a sly smile, indicating he may have

helped sell the call. . Though he traveled with the team, Danny

Granger has only played five games this season for the Pacers due

to a strained calf and is still inactive.