INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel had plenty of praise for Paul George and Lance Stephenson after Saturday night's 89-74 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Then he went a big leap further about Stephenson.
"Paul George and Lance Stephenson are guys who easily drove the ship tonight," Vogel said of the players who combined for 43 points for the unbeaten Pacers.
"Lance has been our most efficient offensive player this year.
"He has taken a giant step. I want to see him keep it going. It's in his DNA to be aggressive."
Stephenson scored 22 points, including 10 in a 14-4 run midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Pacers a 79-61 lead with 7:46 to play.
George, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and scored all the points in a key third-quarter run for Indiana (3-0).
"We came out with a good, solid defensive job," George said. "Our guards were boxing out, making it easier for our bigger guys. We are still learning. We must still improve."
Dion Waiters scored 17 points, Kyrie Irving had 15 and Anderson Varejao 14 for Cleveland (1-2), which dropped both ends of a two-night road trip after beginning the season with a homecourt win.
Stephenson began the final surge by hitting a 3-pointer from the left side, scored on a layup, drove the lane, then finished the run by knocking down a 28-footer from the left side. That pushed Indiana's lead to 18 points, and both coaches substituted liberally.
Roy Hibbert added 11 points for the Pacers, who played without guard George Hill, who sat out with a sore left hip. Replacing Hill, who scored 19 points in the Pacers' opener, was C.J. Watson, who scored seven points and dished out a team-high six assists.
"A solid 'W' for our guys," Vogel said. "Kudos to C.J. and Donald Sloan for stepping up for George Hill."
Cleveland, which had scored the last six points of the third quarter to pull within 62-55, trailed 65-57 early in the fourth quarter.
Stephenson was 7 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. George was 8 of 17 from the field, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.
George fueled the only real run of the first half, starting with a monster jam with 4:06 to go in the first quarter and finishing the 8-2 surge with two free throws as the Pacers took a 21-16 lead after one quarter.
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