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Hibbert carries Pacers to victory over Timberwolves

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert is finally making up for a slow start to the season.

Hibbert scored a season-high 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting to go with 12 rebounds in the Pacers' 107-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

"Roy Hibbert was the star of the game," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We didn't really go to him more than we really do, especially with them fronting the post."

The victory allowed the Pacers to keep pace with the New York Knicks in the race to finish with the second best record in the Eastern Conference.

Swingman Paul George added 17 points for the Pacers. Point guard Ricky Rubio had 21 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Timberwolves.

The Pacers looked like they were going to blow the short-handed Timberwolves out of the gym early. They jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead and had plenty of energy.

The Timberwolves might be short bodies, but they didn't quit. They're the same team that beat the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.

The T-wolves kept chipping away and caused some uneasiness among the Pacers faithful.

But the Pacers kept going to Hibbert in the post where he constantly took advantage of Greg Stiemsma and Chris Johnson.

"He really hurt us, he really took it to us in the second half, especially the third quarter," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said about Hibbert.

Hibbert is in the midst of playing his best basketball of the season.

He's averaged 14.8 points in the past nine games. He's shot at least 50 percent from the field in all but one of those games.

"You can see in his body language that he is playing more confident," Vogel said. "I really think the difference is confidence and returning to form."

He's said a number of times that the $58-million contract he signed last summer hasn't been the reason for his struggles this season.

Hibbert had nine points in the first quarter, eight points in the second, six in the third and four points in the final quarter.

"I've been putting in a lot of extra work," Hibbert said. "I did my best not to get frustrated earlier. I learned how to deal with double teams and stuff like that. Put in long hours and that really helped me out."

The Pacers led by as many as 16 points late in the third quarter, but the Timberwolves trimmed the lead to six early in the fourth quarter before Vogel went back to most of his starters to blow the game back open. Rookie Orlando Johnson scored 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting while playing the entire fourth quarter for the Pacers.

"It was getting stops," Pacers point guard George Hill said. "We knew they'd make great runs. We knew if we could get consecutive stops and push it and get it inside that we'd have great opportunities to score."

NOTES: Pacers small forward Danny Granger's path back into the lineup continues to hit road blocks. Granger, who has missed all but five games this season, will miss the next three games and then have his left knee re-evaluated. If cleared, Granger will then be allowed to resume his activities. It's uncertain when Granger will return to the lineup. ... Vogel put his team through a two-hour film session, their longest of the season, before practice Monday, pinpointing every one of their mistakes in their 14-point loss at Miami on Sunday. ... After holding out that All-Star forward Kevin Love would be ready to return to practice, the Timberwolves learned Wednesday that his right hand still isn't completely healthy and he'll be re-evaluated in two to three weeks. ... Swingman Chase Budinger, out since early November with a left knee injury, has been cleared to return to practice. ... The Timberwolves were without Andrei Kirilenko (calf), Malcolm Lee (knee), Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain) and Brandon Roy (knee).
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