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Big third quarter propels Pacers past Blazers

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers looked as if they were still sleepwalking from their four-game road trip in the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, but they woke up after halftime.

The Pacers outscored the Trail Blazers by 17 points in the third quarter en route to a 99-92 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

"Nothing builds confidence like quality road wins, and our confidence is growing by the day," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

Paul George, who scored 34 points the night before in Chicago, led the Pacers with 22 points and five assists, and he added eight rebounds.

Rookie point guard Damian Lillard topped the Trail Blazers with 23 points and six assists.

The Pacers (10-9) are 4-1 in their past five games and are over .500 for the first time since they were 2-1. They are tied with the Chicago Bulls for the Central Division lead.

"We know we've got something good going on now," Pacers backup center Ian Mahinmi said. "We want to try and keep this train going."

Portland (8-11) completed its seven-game road trip 2-5.

The Pacers looked as if they would blow the game open in the third quarter after they went into the half trailing by two points. They closed the third quarter on a 17-2 run to take a 79-64 lead.

"I think they started to execute, they started to make their shots, they made some tough shots," Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. "I think they picked up their intensity a little bit, also. Consistency has been a problem for us."

George scored seven points during the run. Mahinmi came off the bench and chipped in four points during the run. He finished with a season-high 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting in only 19 minutes. He also grabbed four rebounds and blocked a shot.

The Pacers' bench outscored Portland's second unit 31-13. Tyler Hansbrough contributed 10 points off the bench for Indiana.

The Pacers did not commit a turnover in the third quarter while holding Portland to 17 points.

"We guarded," Vogel said. "We try to take pride on being the best defensive team in the NBA. We got after it. We were able to get on the break and get some easy buckets."

The Pacers eventually got their lead up to 18 points early in the fourth quarter, but as they have done all season, they proved that no lead is safe with them.

Portland, playing hard for first-year coach Terry Stotts, chipped away to cause a lot of uneasiness with the Pacers and their fans.

The Trail Blazers got the lead down to as low as four points in the final quarter. Trailing by five with about a minute remaining, the Trail Blazers had a chance to make it a three-point game when J.J. Hickson drove and attempted a shot over George. However, center Roy Hibbert made the key play, as he did the night before in Chicago to preserve a victory. Hibbert slid over from the weak side to block Hickson's shot.

Hibbert shot just 3-for-13 from the field, but he grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots.

"We knew we had to do it on defense," Mahinmi said. "We got a few stops in a row, and we just needed free throws at the end. We're happy about the win."

NOTES: George said he plans to make it a habit to attempt 500 extra shots on off days after he scored 34 points against the Bulls a day after taking 500 shots to break out of his shooting slump. ... After playing 12 of their first 18 games on the road, the Pacers play seven of their next 12 games at home. ... Lillard is on pace to become only the fifth player to average at least 18 points, six assists and one steal a game during his rookie season. He was named Western Conference rookie of the month on Wednesday. ... Indiana forward Danny Granger, who has been out all season with a knee injury, no longer is using crutches and is traveling with the team. The Pacers still believe it'll be sometime in February before Granger returns to the lineup. ... About 265 people took the two-hour bus ride from Robinson, Ill., to watch Portland rookie Meyers Leonard play. Leonard, a rookie first-round pick out of the University of Illinois who grew up in Robinson, scored four points in 12 minutes.
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