Pac­ers’ dy­namic duo de­liv­ers

Indiana’s Hib­bert and Ge­orge team up to cool off the Heat

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in In­di­anapo­lis

Roy Hib­bert threw all the in­side body jabs on Tues­day night and Paul Ge­orge fin­ished it off with the knock­out blow.

To­gether, the Pac­ers’ dev­as­tat­ing one-two scor­ing punch took it to the champs. Hib­bert fin­ished with 24 points, Ge­orge made two big three- point­ers dur­ing a 15-point sec­ond half scor­ing spree and Indiana ral­lied from a seven-point half­time deficit to beat the Mi­ami Heat 90-84.

“It was fun ... a real in­tense game,” Ge­orge said. “Both teams were play­ing at a high level. You could see an ur­gency to win this game tonight.”

While Indiana ex­tended its fran­chise-record home start to 10-0 and took a three-game ad­van­tage over Mi­ami in the early chase for home- court ad­van­tage, this was no or­di­nary reg­u­lar sea­son game.

Be­fore the tipoff, Indiana’s Lance Stephen­son said it felt like a cham­pi­onship matchup. But two of Mi­ami’s big guns, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, tried to down­play that sort of talk by say­ing it was not a win-or-go-home night.

The home­town fans didn’t care what the Heat thought. They were al­ready in post­sea­son form, boo­ing loudly at the of­fi­cials, chant­ing “He’s a flop­per” on some con­testable foul calls and even­tu­ally ser­e­nad­ing Mi­ami play­ers with those fa­mil­iar chants of “Beat the Heat”.

But the Pac­ers (19-3) also un­der­stood this was only the start of a sea­son- long quest that could pit the two best teams in the East in the con­fer­ence fi­nals for a sec­ond straight year.

First, there is the re­match in Mi­ami on Dec 18. They won’t meet again un­til March 26 in Indy, then head back to Mi­ami on April 11 be­fore what most ex­pect to be a third straight meet­ing in the play­offs.

If those games have as much in­trigue and pizazz as Tues­day night’s show­down, they could be the most com­pelling of the sea­son.

And the Pac­ers can’t wait to show how much they can im­prove — even on a win over the de­fend­ing champs and four-time MVP LeBron James.

“It’s just one game,” Hib­bert said. “We’re go­ing to learn from it. It’s a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s still early in the sea­son. We have a lot more work to do.”

To the av­er­age fan, it looked a lot like last sea­son’s play­off se­ries, which Mi­ami won in seven games.

Hib­bert dom­i­nated the mid­dle, scor­ing nine of Indiana’s first 11 points and mak­ing a sea­son-high 10 bas­kets — most from point- blank range — de­spite play­ing in the sec­ond half with cot­ton in his nose.

David West added 17 points, nine re­bounds and four as­sists in­clud­ing a left-handed 4-foot run­ner that gave Indiana an 88-81 lead with 38.9 sec­onds to go.

James’ de­fense and Mi­ami’s phys­i­cal dou­ble-teams frus­trated Ge­orge most of the night, but when Ge­orge fi­nally got free late, he made three big 3-point­ers to help the Pac­ers pull away.

Ge­orge, the NBA’s fourth high­est scorer, fin­ished with 17 points, three re­bounds and four as­sists.

“I knew it was go­ing to be a night when I was go­ing to ex­plode of­fen­sively,” Ge­orge said.

“I knew I had to move the ball and share it.”

Chas­ing Ge­orge all night ap­par­ently took a toll on James and the Heat (16-6).

While James, the league’s No 2 scorer, drained 17 points and had 14 re­bounds and six as­sists, he was just three of 11 from the field with nine points over the fi­nal 36 min­utes — three quar­ters when Mi­ami failed to top the 20-point mark and had five turnovers. Wade also fin­ished with 17 points, while Bosh added 12.

It was Mi­ami’s third loss in five games.

“I thought we brought it tonight,” James said.

“We know they are a very good de­fen­sive team. I thought they hit some tough shots and they attacked the rim real well, but even though they had us down by 10 re­bounds, I thought we re­bounded well and we bat­tled.”

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