Pacers defeat Bulls
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana suddenly has a shooting touch to go with its tough defense.
The combination is just too much.
David West scored 29 points Monday night and All-Star Paul George finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, leading the Pacers past Chicago 111-101 for a 14th consecutive home win and into a tie with the Bulls for the Central Division lead.
“We’re just playing together, every game I feel like we’re playing sharper,” West said. “We still need to pick it up defensively, we’re slipping in that regard, but in terms of the offense and how we’re moving the ball and what we’re looking for, it’s just game-by-game improvement.”
Three nights after shooting a season-high 55.7 percent in a relatively easy win over defending NBA champion Miami, Indiana shot 52.7 percent against a Bulls defense that is ranked No. 2 in the NBA in defensive field goal percentage. The only team ahead of the Bulls is the Pacers, and Indiana never trailed in the second half Monday.
Indiana has topped the 100-point mark four times in the last five games after doing that only seven times in the first 43. It was the Pacers’ highest point total in a non-overtime game all season, and the timing couldn’t have been better as they head into a three games-in-three night swing. They are the only NBA team to deal with that this season.
Now the Pacers will take a three-game winning streak into Tuesday night’s home game against Atlanta as they try to win a 15th consecutive home game for the first time since 1999-2000 when they won 25 in a row. On Wednesday, they visit Philadelphia.
Indiana’s recent surge has it tied for the division lead with Chicago (29-19) and behind only Miami (30-14) and New York (31-15) in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Over the past month, the Pacers have beaten Miami twice and New York and Chicago once each, going 4-0 mark against the East’s three other top teams since Jan. 8 and they now have a 2-0 series lead over the Bulls, the league’s best road team.
“We played the No. 1 team in Miami and New York and Chicago is right there, and this is a big win for us, definitely playing against a division team,” George Hill said. “So I’m happy with our ballclub, we played a great game.”
The Bulls didn’t look like themselves, though.
Starting guards Derrick Rose (left knee) and Kirk Hinrich (right elbow) and starting center Joakim Noah (right foot) all sat out again with injuries, and they had another scare late in the first quarter when Marco Belinelli crashed to the floor clutching his right ankle. He returned later and finished with a season-high 24 points. Nate Robinson finished with 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds, and Carlos Boozer had 10 points and five rebounds as he returned from a right hamstring injury.
All of those players, other than Belinelli and Robinson, missed Saturday’s 93-76 victory at Atlanta.
“I feel like we’re short-handed right now, but we’re competing hard and that’s all you can ask for and I feel like our best basketball is yet to come,” Noah said. “We’ve just got to keep fighting and I think we’ll be all right.”
Those expecting a defensive slugfest were in for a surprise.
Indiana started the game fast, making its first six shots to take a 13-2 lead, and finished the first half nearly as fast, using a 12-6 run to break a 48-48 tie to make it 60-54 at the half. The Pacers shot 66.7 percent from the field in the half.
Chicago had seven players in double figures and continually challenged Indiana, but never had control and couldn’t even forge a tie over the final 27½ minutes.
Robinson opened the second half with a 3-pointer and a 20-foot jumper to close the deficit to 60-59, but a few minutes later, Indiana seized control with two quick scoring flurries.
The first came when George hit a 3-foot jumper, Lance Stephenson then completed a three-point play and Hill added a four-point play to make it 73-63 with 7:35 left in the third. Chicago answered with four straight points, and Indiana came right back with six straight to take a 79-67 lead.
“We started the game in a big hole and we had to get out of that hole,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Now you’re scrambling and trying to give yourself a chance. I thought we were in position with five minutes to go.”
Chicago rallied again in the fourth, using an 8-0 run to close to 90-84, and it got as close as four three times.
Indiana finally sealed it with a 3 from George and two free throws from West with 1:05 to play.
“I’m proud of the way we’re growing on the offensive end,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Still a few too many turnovers, but we’ve made a commitment to the extra pass. When the ball is moving, we’re too many weapons to be as poorly efficient as we have been.”
NOTES: It was Indiana’s first regular-season home win over Chicago since March 18, 2011. … The Bulls are 6-20 all-time at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. … Bulls guard Marquis Teague finished with two points in his first pro appearance in his hometown. … The Bulls lost for only the third time in nine games.
WIZARDS 98, CLIPPERS 90
WASHINGTON — Martell Webster scored 21 points, and Washington broke a four-game losing streak against a Los Angeles team missing Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
With Griffin nursing a strained left hamstring and Paul still dealing with a bruised right kneecap, the Wizards pulled away with a 7-0 run late in the fourth quarter, spurred by a pair of big offensive rebounds by Nene.
Nene and Garrett Temple scored 15 points apiece, Emeka Okafor grabbed 14 rebounds, and John Wall had 13 points and eight assists for the Wizards, who entered the game tied with the Charlotte Bobcats for the worst record in the NBA.
Jamal Crawford scored 28 points, and DeAndre Jordan had a career-high 22 rebounds for the Clippers.
HEAT 99, BOBCATS 94
MIAMI — LeBron James scored 31 points and Chris Bosh added 23 to lead Miami to its 10th consecutive victory over Charlotte.
Dwyane Wade had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Heat, who have won nine of their last 10 at home. James was 13 for 14 from the field, for a career-best 93 percent shooting. The Heat improved to 19-3 on their home floor.
Ramon Sessions scored 18 points for Charlotte, which lost its fourth in a row and 12th in the last 14. Ben Gordon had 16 points as six Bobcats players scored in double digits.
KNICKS 99, PISTONS 85
NEW YORK — Tyson Chandler tied a franchise record with his third straight 20-rebound game, Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points, and New York cruised to its fifth consecutive victory.
In a game that was decided early, Chandler played long enough to grab his 20th rebound midway through the fourth quarter. After grabbing 20 in victories on Friday and Saturday night, he became the first Knicks player to have 20 in three straight games since Hall of Famer Willis Reed in December 1969.
Newly acquired Jose Calderon scored 15 points in his Detroit debut, while Greg Monroe had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook scored 24 points, Kevin Durant had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Oklahoma City avoided a third straight overtime game against Dallas.
The Mavericks had tied the first two meetings this season with 3-pointers at the very end, but there was no such drama the third time around.
Oklahoma City led by at least 20 throughout the second half, winning for the 10th time in 11 meetings between the teams since Dallas beat the Thunder in the 2011 Western Conference finals on its way to the NBA championship. That includes a four-game sweep of the Mavs in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
Shawn Marion was the lone bright spot for Dallas, hitting 10 of 14 shots and scoring 23 points.
TRAIL BLAZERS 100
MINNEAPOLIS — LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 13 rebounds to help Portland avoid a late collapse against Minnesota.
Wes Matthews scored 22 points and Damon Lillard added 21 points for the Blazers, but they each had five of the team’s season-high 28 turnovers. The Blazers never trailed in the game, but the Wolves had a chance to tie or win in the end. Ricky Rubio swung the ball to Dante Cunningham, whose 19-footer fell short.
Rubio had 10 of his career-high-tying 14 assists in the fourth quarter and finished with a season-high 15 points in a season-high 34 minutes. Cunningham scored a career-high 23 points on 11 for 17 shooting, and J.J. Barea added 17 points.
76ERS 78, MAGIC 61
PHILADELPHIA — Spencer Hawes had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Jrue Holiday had 13 points and 14 assists to lead Philadelphia to its third straight win.
Nick Young had 15 points for the Sixers, who won three straight games for the first time since the final three games of November.
Orlando listed six players as inactive in its 10th straight loss. E’Twaun Moore had 18 points and Nik Vucevic grabbed 14 rebounds.
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