Pac­ers snap skid by rout­ing Rock­ets

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

The Indiana Pac­ers re­sponded to Fri­day night’s chal­lenge like a cham­pion.

Af­ter tak­ing two big hits this week — los­ing at home and drop­ping back- to- back games for the first time all sea­son — the Pac­ers struck back by play­ing their most com­plete game of the sea­son.

Paul Ge­orge fin­ished with 24 points and nine re­bounds, Lance Stephen­son added 16 points and six as­sists, and the de­fense com­pletely shut down the Houston Rock­ets in a 11481 rout.

“This team doesn’t like los­ing,” coach Frank Vo­gel said. “We talked about play­ing mad for four quar­ters.”

By fol­low­ing Vo­gel’s plan, the Pac­ers con­tin­ued to add to an al­ready strong re­sume.

While some try to dis­count Indiana’s quick start be­cause they’re play­ing in the strug­gling East­ern Con­fer­ence, the Pac­ers still have a firm grip on the con­fer­ence’s best record (21-5) and have al­ready beaten three of the Western Con­fer­ence’s top teams — the Clippers, Spurs and now the Rock­ets.

De­spite tak­ing Dwight Howard’s best shot Fri­day — Houston’s center had 19 points, 12 re­bounds and five blocks — Indiana still man­aged to man­han­dle the usu­ally po­tent Rock­ets’ of­fense.

Houston ( 17- 10) en­tered the game sec­ond in scor­ing av­er­age and third in field goal per­cent­age. It left In­di­anapo­lis hav­ing shot 38.1 per­cent in the game, com­pil­ing a sea­son-low in points and los­ing to Indiana for the fourth straight time.

Even James Harden, the league’s No 6 scorer, couldn’t get started. He was just 3 of 14 from the field and scored only 12 points, pri­mar­ily against Ge­orge.

It was a dis­turb­ing twist for the Rock­ets, who had won three of their pre­vi­ous five, had beaten Chicago by 25 points on Wed­nes­day and were try­ing to keep pace with di­vi­sion-lead­ing San An­to­nio.

Heck, they couldn’t even fig­ure out how to beat the Pac­ers’ stout de­fense.

“We had no an­swers for them. They played way bet­ter than we did,” coach Kevin McHale said. “We weren’t mov­ing, we weren’t at­tack­ing, they had us on our heels all night.”

But Indiana also had some­thing else — mo­ti­va­tion.

The Pac­ers were de­ter­mined to make some­one pay for this week’s ear­lier stum­bles, and they didn’t care much about who showed up Fri­day.

Not only did the Pac­ers fin­ish with a sea­son high 12 3-point­ers, but they also had a sea­son high point to­tal, their largest vic­tory mar­gin (33) of the sea­son and their sec­ond best field goal per­cent­age of the sea­son (53.1).

Six play­ers scored in dou­ble fig­ures and they did all that on a night Roy Hib­bert fin­ished with nine points, six re­bounds and one block.

How did they do it? The same way the Pac­ers usu­ally win: with a bal­anced and re­lent­less de­fense.

“It’s a good feel­ing be­cause when we’re at our best we feel like we’re un­stop­pable,” Ge­orge said. “It was good to come out and play with high en­ergy against a high-en­ergy team.”

Indiana fans gave for­mer All- Star Danny Granger a stand­ing ova­tion when he made his sea­son de­but in the first quar­ter and chanted his name when he fi­nally made his first bas­ket, a 3- pointer, early in the fourth.

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