George leads Pacers past Rockets 105-95
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George made everything look easy Friday night.
Scoring, rebound, playing defense, even winning seems second-nature to the Pacers' budding star these days.
George finished with 31 points, and David West added 20 points and 11 rebounds, helping Central Division-leading Indiana pull away from struggling Houston 105-95.
"My guys found me, so I just had to knock shots down," George said. "It felt good, it's easy to start in a flow when you get some good looks early on and that was the case tonight."
George has been the key figure in Indiana's incredible turnaround. The Pacers (25-16) have rebounded from a sluggish start by going 15-5 over the last 20 games, pulling even in the win column with the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference and winning 11 straight at home — their longest since winning 14 in a row in 2002-03.
Plus, George continued to make his case for being on the East's All-Star roster by going 8-of-11 from the field and knocking down five 3-pointers in the first half, and then playing a second half in which he looked content to make all the right moves regardless of his scoring chances.
The result: George finished 11 of 19 from the field, 7 of 10 from 3-point range, had six rebounds, five steals, three assists and one block in a game the Pacers dictated almost from start to finish. It was George's third 30-point game of the season.
And he did all that on a night the short-handed Pacers played without Danny Granger (left knee), lost backup swingman Gerald Green before the game with food poisoning and lost backup center Ian Mahinmi after the first half with a stomach ailment.
His teammates are not surprised.
"He (George) has been putting in a lot of work before practice, after practice, before games, getting up a lot of shots, so we keep going to him and he's been playing real well," All-Star center Roy Hibbert said. "Right now, Paul's been carrying this team and David's been carrying this team, so they're doing a pretty good job."
But Indiana's defense has been even better.
The Pacers came into the game as the only NBA team allowing fewer than 90 points per game. They also led the league in defensive field goal percentage, and now Houston (21-20) understands why.
While Omer Asik scored a career-high 22 points and finished with 11 rebounds, the Pacers held James Harden to 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Harden, who was defended most of the night by George, had a career-best streak of 22 straight games with 20 or more points end on the same night the NBA's second-best scoring team finished 10 points below it average and shot just 41.0 percent from the field.