George leads balanced Pacers past Suns, 112-104By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Mar 31, 2013
PHOENIX (AP)—Indiana’s longest free throw parade of the season took the Pacers to their fourth straight win.
Indiana’s seventh victory in eight games lifted them a half-game ahead of idle New York for second in the Eastern Conference.
Goran Dragic who sat out the previous two games for a rest, had 21 points and nine assists for the Suns before fouling out with 1:10 to play.
Indiana made 34 of 46 free throws, its season high in makes and attempts. They also were opponent highs for the Suns.
Going to the free throw line, coach Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, “is part of our style of play.”
“We try to pound it inside and force teams to foul us if they don’t have great low post defenders, and then we pound the glass,” Vogel said. “A lot of fouls came on that as well, but we have ones, twos and threes that are good attackers as well.”
Hibbert, who scored 16 in the first half, said each of the starters took a turn playing an important role in the victory.
” We are a team that is filled with leaders,” he said. “Paul took over in moments, David came in and closed the game out, George made some spectacular plays and Lance is our bulldog.”
The Suns, losers of six in a row, were outscored 10-3 over the final three minutes after cutting the lead to 102-101.
“Sometimes you just gotta win,” Vogel said. “It’s not always going to be a 25-point road win. Any win on the road is a good win.”
Markieff Morris added 18 for the Suns, who had seven in double figures.
“Like I have said before, there are no moral victories, but when you are traveling down the road we are traveling you have to get small victories out of tough times,” Phoenix interim coach Lindsey Hunter said. “I think tonight we got a lot of small victories. That is a championship-caliber team over there I would say and I think we fought them toe to toe right up until the end.”
Trailing 86-76 after three quarters, the Suns cut it to 97-94 on five points by Dragic, a fast-break layup after a long pass from Jermaine O’Neal followed by a 3-pointer with 5:08 to play.
Dragic’s spinning layup from the baseline cut it to 99-98 with 3:43 left, then George was fouled by Wesley Johnson on a 3-point try and made all three from the line to put the Pacers up 102-98 with 3:28 to go.
But O’Neal, who had missed three of four games with a calf strain, converted a three-point play to cut it to 102-101 3:10 from the finish.
Indiana pulled away from the line.
West made two free throws with 2:46 to go, George sank two more with 1:50 to play and Stephenson made one of two with 1:10 left, leaving the Pacers up 107-101. West’s 15-footer, Indiana’s lone field goal over the final 4 1/2 minutes, made it 109-101 with 34.6 seconds to play.
After making just six of their first 15 free throw tries, Indiana made 28 of 31 the rest of the way.
The Suns outscored Indiana 10-4, six by Luis Scola to start the second half, cutting the lead to 61-59 and were down 64-63 on Morris’ two free throws with 7:54 to play in the third. Five straight points, the last two on free throws by Hill, boosted the lead back to 69-63, but Morris’ three straight inside baskets in a 6-2 Phoenix spurt cut it to 71-69.
The Pacers pulled away to take a 78-69 lead on George’s 3. D.J. Augustin’s two free throws with 2:22 left in the period gave Indiana its first double-digit lead of the game, 82-71.
Indiana’s 12-0 first-quarter run put the Pacers ahead for good, but they never led by more than 11.
NOTES: The Pacers wrap up their four-game trip to the West against the Clippers on Monday. … The Suns are 2-12 since a three-game winning streak Feb. 26-March 1. … West played his second straight game after missing six in a row with a lower back sprain.