INDIANAPOLIS — An off night from Paul George wasn’t enough to derail the Indiana Pacers.
Lance Stephenson had 20 points and 11 rebounds and center Roy Hibbert added 18 points and 11 boards to help Indiana overcome an off night from George to improve their franchise-record home start to 11-0 with a 99-94 victory over theCharlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
“I think he was in the flow for most of the game,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of Stephenson. “Lance has great will, too. Lance made sure we had energy at both ends of the floor.”
George, who entered the contest averaging 24.7 points a game, finished with 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting for Indiana (20-3).
The 23 games are the fewest the Pacers have needed to reach 20 wins in franchise history, beating the old mark set when they started 20-7 in 2003-04. That team finished 61-21, best in franchise history.
Al Jefferson had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Bobcats (10-13), who extended their losing streak in Indiana to eight games. Charlotte hasn’t won on the Pacers’ home court since Nov. 28, 2008.
Stephenson added seven assists and David West scored 14 points, George Hillhad 13 and Luis Scola 11 for Indiana (20-3). Rasual Butler, playing his most significant minutes (23:47) of the season, scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting.
“That’s a good win against a good team that we have respect for,” Vogel said. “We understood this would be a battle of a game and it was.”
The Pacers led 56-55 at halftime in their first game since defeating the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday night in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals.
They trailed by 90-89 after Gerald Henderson sank a 15-foot jump shot with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter, but Stephenson’s layup made it 91-90 with 4:18 to play. Indiana never trailed again though it was tight until the end.
“We had them where we wanted,” Jefferson said. “We didn’t do a great job getting back on defense. We played a heck of a game. We had a chance there at the end to be exactly where we wanted to against a good team. We were right there.”
Jefferson scored on a layup with 2:14 to pull Charlotte within 96-94, but two free throws by Hill and another by George with 8.1 seconds left sealed the victory.
“They made a couple of free throws and got it up to a five-point game, but we were right there with them,” Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson said. “They’re a good defensive team. They are a team that doesn’t let you get to the rim. So we tried to drag them out to the perimeter and then attack against them.”
Though they failed to avenge a 25-point loss to the Pacers on Nov. 26 in Charlotte in the teams’ other meeting this season, the Bobcats accomplished one of their goals by shutting down George.
“Jeff guarded him a lot,” Henderson said. “I guarded him. He’s a tough cover. He can score in every way. You have to play him physical without fouling. He missed a lot of shots tonight. He’ll go get 30 tomorrow.”
Vogel took some of the blame for George’s off night.
“He didn’t get a lot of clean looks. That’s on me,” Indiana’s coach said.