George, Hibbert, Hill lead Pacers past 76ers
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George let his teammates do the dirty work inside Friday night. All he had to do was clean up.
Did he ever.
The third-year guard scored 14 of his 28 points in a game-changing third quarter and teamed up with Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill to deliver a stinging combination for the Indiana Pacers in a 95-85 victory over the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers.
“I really want the ball. I really feel right now that I can make plays and create for others,” George said after topping the 20-point mark for the fifth time in six games. “And when we need the shot to go down, I can make them.”
George proved it time and again Friday night.
But he had the easy part — taking advantage of the openings created by his bigger teammates in the middle. He finished 9 of 17 from the field, 5 of 7 on 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds, blocked three shots and seemingly made every big basket including the eventual knockout 3-pointer with 2:01 left in the game.
And he had plenty of help.
West started the game-changing third-quarter scoring flurry and scored six of his 14 points during an 18-6 run that sent Indiana from a 46-42 deficit into a 60-52 lead.
Hibbert, who has struggled offensively most of this season, produced his best all-around game. He finished with 19 points, one short of his season high, tied his season best with three assists and grabbed 13 rebounds — still a season best despite having one taken away during a postgame scoring change that gave Hill a triple-double.
Hill finished with 15 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds following a late scoring change from early in the game — the first triple-double of his career — at the expense of Hibbert.
The All-Star center didn’t care about the stat sheet, only that Indiana (12-11) was back over the .500 mark and 9-5 in its last 14 games.
“I want to be aggressive. I was taking shots and they were dropping tonight, so I’m happy for that,” Hibbert said. “But I’m happier with the win.”
Philadelphia faced a big challenge Friday.
Not only did it have to contend with Indiana’s resurgent offense, it also had to deal with the NBA’s second-best scoring defense without two of its top players.
With Andrew Bynum still out because of bilateral knee bone bruises, coach Doug Collins opted to keep top scorer Jrue Holiday on the bench with a sprained left foot, rather than risk further injury.
Collins adapted by putting Evan Turner at point guard and inserting Nick Young into the starting lineup for the first time this season, moves that produced mixed results.
Turner responded with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while Young had eight points on 4-of-14 shooting. Spencer Hawes (18 points) and Thaddeus Young (12) were the only other players to reach double figures.
The bigger problem for Philadelphia came on the inside, where Indiana had a 40-26 scoring advantage in the paint.
“We knew second-chance points were going to be a problem. They are a big, strong team,” Collins said. “I thought our guys fought. I thought we did some good things.”
Just not enough of them.
Philadelphia took advantage of two errant inbounds passes from West late in the first half, scoring six points in the final 3.8 seconds to take a 44-42 halftime lead.
It didn’t last long.
After Turner started the second half with a 19-footer, West and Hibbert accounted for six points in an 8-0 Indiana run that gave the Pacers a 50-46 lead.
George then scored all of Indiana’s points in an 8-2 spurt and when West knocked down a 17-footer with 5:03 left in the third, Indiana led 60-52.
Philadelphia spent the rest of the night playing catch-up but never got all the way back.
The 76ers got as close as 86-83 when Hawes made an 18-footer with 2:59 to play. George answered with his final 3 of the night and Philadelphia didn’t score another basket as the Pacers sealed it with a 9-2 run.
“For a team struggling offensively, to have a guy that stepped up the way he (George) stepped up is big. He’s making shots right now. It’s just confidence,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Roy works harder than anybody and he’s staying with it and we’re staying with him. We wanted them to take tough shots tonight and they made them.”
NOTES: Hibbert had only one block, ending a streak of 16 straight games with at least two. … Philadelphia is 2-5 in its last seven games and has scored 90 or fewer points in all five of those losses. … Indiana shot a season-best 57.1 percent from 3-point range. … Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen attended the game. … The Pacers observed a moment of silence in tribute to the victims of the Connecticut shooting tragedy just before playing the national anthem.