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George scores 36, Pacers rout Clippers

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers' wing players put on another all-star show Saturday night, hoping their NBA-leading work earns them bids to next month's All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Forward Paul George, an All-Star for the first time last year, continued his recent offensive breakout with 36 points in a 106-92 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, upping his three-game run to 30.6 points. He has had games of 31, 25 and now 36 points.

George scored at least 30 points for the seventh time this season. He had 43 in a Dec. 2 loss at Portland.

Guard Lance Stephenson, who has a league-leading three triple doubles, nearly added a fourth with 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. He is bidding for his first All-Star selection, having started the conversation earlier in the week with a slick rap video made at his Indianapolis home.

All-Star teams will be announced Jan. 30.

The Pacers, who have the NBA's best record at 32-7 (21-1 at home), won their fourth consecutive game and stopped the Clippers' five-game winning streak. The Pacers also ended a four-game homestand in which they won games by 27, 24, 28 and 14 points.

This one really wasn't that close, with the hosts busting out in the fourth quarter behind George and Stephenson.

George had the highlight of the night, a 360-degree dunk off a one-man fast break. He even rotated to the right, which is routine for him but unnatural as a right-handed player.

The slam sent the Pacers to a 96-76 lead and the sold-out home crowd of 18,165 into a frenzy.

"Probably the best dunk I've ever seen live," Pacers point guard George Hill said.

Even the Clippers liked it.

"That was nice," guard Jamal Crawford said.

George said it was the first 360 in an NBA game.

"I've done it in pick-up or summertime (games)," he said.

George said it came to him "naturally."

"I usually go for something simple, but we've got a great crowd tonight, and I wanted to put on a show, keep guys coming back," he said.

Indiana coach Frank Vogel called it "unbelievable."

"I'm just glad he made it, or he was coming out (of the game)," the coach joked.

Los Angeles dropped to 28-14. Crawford led the way with 22 points off the bench. Forward Blake Griffin had 19 points and eight rebounds, and he was involved in a scary moment at the end of the first half.

After failing to beat the buzzer with a transition basket, Griffin took contact to the head from Pacers forward David West. West isn't regarded as a dirty player, but such a hit is considered an automatic flagrant-2 foul and an ejection.

Vogel said the Pacers were surprised by West's disqualification, but they had confidence in forwards Luis Scola and Danny Granger coming off the bench. Both had trouble guarding Griffin, but Griffin and the Clippers had trouble chasing him to the 3-point line.

Granger had a pair of 3s on his way to scoring 12 points.

"We knew we were going to be solid and good enough to finish this game, and I thought Danny did a great job of coming in and battling against Blake and stretching the floor out playing the (power forward position)," George said. "It was just the next-man-up mentality."

Roy Hibbert of the Pacers arguably got the better of DeAndre Jordan at the center position, although Jordan had 12 points, 17 rebounds and two blocked shots. Hibbert had four points, 11 points and five blocks, taking the NBA lead from Jordan in blocks. Hibbert has 102 for the season, Jordan 100.

Indiana fell into a 15-8 to open the game but scored the next 17 points to take command. The Pacers led by as many as 18 points in the period, at 57-39, to continue their home-court dominance.

George scored 20 points in the half on 7-of-10 shooting. He hit three of his four 3-pointers and grabbed four rebounds. Stephenson had 11.

The Pacers scored 10 points on fast breaks in the period, noteworthy because the Clippers lead the league defensively in that category at 9.7 per game. The Pacers had 18 for the game to just four for L.A.

The third quarter has been Indiana's playground this season, but the Clippers outscored the Pacers by six to cut the deficit to 78-68. But they could get only a single point closer.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers was disappointed.

"We didn't play well at all," he said. "Give (the Pacers) credit. I thought their defense really rushed us."

NOTES: The Clippers played their seventh consecutive game without PG Chris Paul (injured right shoulder). His replacement, G Darren Collison, spent two seasons in an Indiana uniform, averaging 13.2 points in 2010-11 and 10.3 points in 2011-12. ... The Pacers leave Sunday for a long but not overly difficult 10-day road trip. It begins with a game at Golden State on Monday followed by games at Phoenix, Sacramento, Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pacers are 11-6 on the road. ... Proof of why the Pacers have the league's best record: They are No. 1, by far, in net efficiency, which is the difference when subtracting points allowed per 100 possessions from points scored in that span. They're plus 9.9 with San Antonio second at 8.5.
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