Paul George pours in 39, Indiana Pacers flatten Charlotte Hornets

By Jeff Washburn, The Sports Xchange  |  March 16, 2017 at 6:46 AM
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George prefers to keep the specifics "in house," but a spirited team discussion after Tuesday night's loss to the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden laid the foundation for Wednesday night's bounce-back performance.

George scored a season-high 39 points, including 27 during the second half, and Indiana pulled away from the Charlotte Hornets for a 98-77 victory.

George made 15 of 21 field-goal attempts, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range. He left the game with 2:56 remaining.

Indiana, which has only seven remaining home games, improved to 35-33. Charlotte fell to 29-39.

"I am going to keep what was said in-house, but we had a great talk," said George, who added five rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Hornets. "Tonight, we showed more team spirit. Tuesday night was a reality check against a team we should have beaten.

"We have to enjoy playing every night. For me, I felt good tonight and just stayed in attack mode. I got into a good rhythm right away."

Monta Ellis added 16 points for the Pacers, who shot 53.4 percent (39 of 73) and outrebounded the Hornets 39-27. Jeff Teague had 11 assists.

Frank Kaminsky led Charlotte with 20 points, Marco Belinelli added 11 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 10. Kemba Walker was limited to seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. The Hornets shot only 40 percent (32 of 80).

"We were just being active," Teague said of how the Pacers shut down Walker. "Myles Turner did a great job of being up front in pick and rolls. We just tried to make him see bodies, and we did a good job of that as a team. I think tonight was one of our best defensive efforts."

Indiana blew the game open with a 33-16 third quarter that included a 15-0 run and 15 points from George on 6-of-9 shooting. The Pacers led 75-58 through 36 minutes, making 11 of 17 field-goal attempts during the pivotal third quarter.

"We talked about consistency," Indiana coach Nate McMillian said. "The problem we have is that sometimes, we just lose focus. Tonight, this team showed what they are capable of doing against a team that has played us well the past couple of years.

"Tonight, our guys played hard and played the game the way it is supposed to be played. Our defense was good, and Paul helped us shoot the ball really well."

Indiana starters George, C.J. Miles and Teague were a collective 10 of 14 from the field in the third period. Charlotte was only 7 of 20 from the field in the third quarter and turned the ball over five times.

Through three quarters, George had 27 points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals. No other Pacer scored in double figures through 36 minutes.

"You could see it right from the beginning of the game," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said of George's best game this season. "He had that look in his eye. He is a really good catch and shoot guy, playing off screens. Once he got into a rhythm, it's hard to stop him."

The game was tied at 42 at halftime with the Pacers getting 12 points from George, nine from Ellis and seven from Glenn Robinson III. Indiana shot 48.7 percent in the opening half (19 of 39) despite making only 3 of 13 from beyond the arc.

Charlotte got seven points each from Cody Zeller and Kaminsky during first-half action but shot only 45 percent (18 of 40), including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.

"What happened in the third quarter all started with Paul George," Zeller said. "He had a big night, and he is capable of having big nights. Recently, we have struggled on defense, and it has been defense we have been relying on all season. We have to defend better again if we expect to get more wind."

Indiana outrebounded the Hornets 20-16 during the first two quarters.

The Pacers led 24-22 through 12 minutes, making 11 of 20 field-goal attempts and getting eight points from George. Belinelli came off the bench for six first-quarter points for the Hornets.

NOTES:

-- Indiana improved to 4-11 on the second night of a back-to-back.

-- The Pacers lost Tuesday night to the Knicks in New York.

-- Charlotte did not have a single offensive rebound in the first three quarters.

-- Hornets G Kemba Walker averaged 26 points in his team's two victories against Indiana this season in Charlotte, but he had only two points during the first half Wednesday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

-- Indiana played without F/C Lavoy Allen (sore left knee).

-- Charlotte was without G/F Nicolas Batum (migraine), C Johnny O'Bryant (right ankle sprain), C Miles Plumlee (right calf sprain) and Ramon Sessions (left knee surgery).

-- With the Pacers' victory, the teams split the four-game season series 2-2, each winning twice at home.

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