Pacers snap skid by routing Rockets
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.