x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Paul George continues to mount MVP candidacy as Indiana Pacers down cooling Warriors

George scored 23 points on Monday night as Indiana travelled to Golden State and pulled out a 102-94 win over the reeling Warriors.

Paul George is tied for eighth in the NBA in scoring average with 23.2 points per game. AJ Mast / AP
Paul George is tied for eighth in the NBA in scoring average with 23.2 points per game. AJ Mast / AP

OAKLAND, United States // When Paul George played at Golden State last season, he missed all seven shots he took and finished scoreless in Indiana’s loss. Instead of sulking, he went straight to the gym after the Pacers arrived back home in the wee hours of the morning.

That work ethic has paid off.

George scored 23 points to go with four rebounds and two assists, and the NBA-leading Pacers built a big lead before holding off the Warriors 102-94 Monday night for their fifth straight win.

“That game changed everything, for our franchise and for him,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, recalling the 103-92 loss at Golden State on December 1, 2012. “It forced him to change his approach.”

George has emerged as an MVP candidate this season, and his Indiana teammates are improving just as rapidly.

The Pacers (33-7) went ahead by 20 in the third quarter, watched the Warriors whittle the lead to two and then regrouped in the closing minutes to open the five-game West Coast trip with a victory.

Roy Hibbert had 14 points and 13 rebounds, David West added 17 points and Lance Stephenson finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to help the Pacers pull away for good.

“I felt good coming off screens, dribbling the ball and hitting some shots,” said George, who made 9-of-20 from the floor. “It’s just tough running around with those guys and still having legs to make shots at the end. That’s really what the toughness was.”

Stephen Curry had 24 points and nine assists, and David Lee had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the streaky Warriors, who have lost four of six since winning 10 in a row.

Indiana outshot the Warriors 45.1 to 40.7 percent and outrebounded them 52 to 45. Both teams committed 15 turnovers.

“We’re right there as a team that has the potential to do some great things this year if we can figure that last, little bit of consistency out,” Curry said. “We’ve shown in spots we have the talent to do it, we just have to find that last little piece of assertiveness against the best teams in the league.”

Golden State made the Pacers work for the win.

After going down by 20 in the third quarter, Harrison Barnes hit a 3-pointer to slice Indiana’s lead to 79-77 early in the fourth. The Pacers pulled away by eight before the Warriors roared back within three on Lee’s free throws.

Stephenson answered with a 3-pointer to put the Pacers up 94-87. Klay Thompson followed with swish from long range, then George Hill hit another from beyond the arc to keep Indiana in control.

“It was like the movie ‘Rocky II.’ I’m not sure which guy was going to fall first. Both teams were completely exhausted,” Vogel said.

The Warriors’ final push ended almost as quickly as it started.

Andre Iguodala made a fadeaway to trim Indiana’s lead to 98-94 with less than a minute left. After Iguodala stole the ball from Hill, Curry missed a contested 3-pointer short, and the Pacers put the game away on free throws.

“We’re close, but we still have work to do,” said Warriors centre Andrew Bogut, who had 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The Warriors entered the night having played an NBA-high 25 road games compared to 17 at home. The game began a string of five straight and nine of 11 at Oracle Arena, though Golden State’s home court provided little comfort against the NBA’s best.

Sparked by their defence and work-to-get-a-good-shot approach, Indiana opened a 35-21 lead at the end of the first quarter. Golden State switched to a smaller lineup to try and outrun the Pacers, who instead exploited their size inside.

After going ahead by 16 points late in the second quarter, Indiana let the Warriors creep closer thanks to a series of turnovers. The Pacers led 53-40 at the half.

Indiana came out of the break just like it did to start the game, scoring the first seven of the third quarter to take a 60-40 lead that silenced most of the announced sellout crowd of 19,596.

But Curry and co quickly had fans on their feet and to a fever pitch after a timeout. Curry hit a jumper, then tossed an alley-oop to Bogut before Thompson’s 3-pointer started a run that brought the Warriors within eight heading to the frantic fourth quarter.

OTHER MONDAY RESULTS

Rockets 126, Trail Blazers 113

Chandler Parsons posted 31 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as the Rockets fended off Portland in a Western Conference shootout.

Rockets centre Dwight Howard added 24 points and 12 rebounds while James Harden totalled 22 points on a big offensive night for Houston (28-15), who shot 52.3 per cent from the floor, including 16-of-33 three-pointers.

Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge recorded 27 points and 20 rebounds for the Trail Blazers (31-10).

Hawks 121, Heat 114

Paul Millsap scored 26 points and helped the Hawks end a nine-game losing streak to the Heat.

The Hawks (21-19) trailed 107-104 midway through the fourth quarter but went on a quick 10-1 run to regain full control.

LeBron James scored 30 for Miami (29-12), who have lost four of their last six games.

Dwyane Wade missed his third straight contest, resting his ailing knee, while Chris Bosh added 21 for the two-time defending NBA champions.

Pelicans 95, Grizzlies 92

The New Orleans Pelicans broke their eight-game losing skid and halted the Memphis Grizzlies’ five-game winning streak.

Anthony Davis led the Pelicans (16-24) with 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks while converting a jumper that put his team up 95-91 with 35 seconds left.

Memphis (20-20) power forward Zach Randolph had 23 points and a season-high 20 rebounds.

Nets 103, Knicks 80

The Brooklyn Nets took advantage of a flat New York Knicks squad in a blowout victory.

Brooklyn (17-22) were led by forward Joe Johnson’s 25 points.

The Knicks (15-26) were led by forward Carmelo Anthony’s 26 points, but he received next to nothing from his supporting cast.

New York scored just 16 points in the first quarter and never fully recovered.

Mavericks 102, Cavaliers 97

Monta Ellis scored a team-high 22 points and had eight assists in the Dallas Mavericks’ victory over the Cavaliers.

Ellis missed two free throws with 3.4 seconds left and Dallas (25-18) clinging to a 100-97 lead, but Cleveland’s Jarrett Jack could not get the ball inbounds and was called for a critical five-second violation.

Kyrie Irving had a game-high 26 points and nine assists for the Cavs (15-26).

Clippers 112, Pistons 103

Reserve guard Jamal Crawford had 26 points and power forward Blake Griffin supplied 25 to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a victory over the Detroit Pistons.

JJ Redick added 20 points and six assists for the Clippers (29-14), who have won six of their last seven games.

Rodney Stuckey had a season-high 29 points and forward Josh Smith contributed 24 but the Pistons (17-24) lost for the seventh time in their last eight home games.

Bulls 102, Lakers 100 (Overtime)

Taj Gibson finished a lay-up off an inbounds pass as time expired and the Chicago Bulls edged the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lakers guard Nick Young had tied the score on a pull-up jumper with six seconds left. He finished with 31 points to lead Los Angeles (16-25).

DJ Augustin had 27 points and centre Joakim Noah finished with 17 points, 21 rebounds and a team-high six assists for the Bulls (20-20).

Wizards 107, 76ers 99

Bradley Beal had 22 points and nine rebounds and matched his career high with eight assists as the Washington Wizards defeated the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Wizards (20-20) led comfortably throughout the day game.

Michael Carter-Williams scored 31 points for the 76ers (13-28), who have lost three straight and seven of eight games.

Bocats 100, Raptors 95

Ramon Sessions scored 23 points, and centre Al Jefferson had 22 points and 19 rebounds as the Charlotte Bobcats beat Toronto.

The Bobcats (18-25) led by as many as 30 points in the third quarter and held on to top the Raptors (20-20) for the seventh straight time.