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Pacers coast to easy win over Bucks

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers had plenty of reasons to overlook the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Pacers were unbeaten, the Bucks lost three in a row and Indiana had a trip to play rival Chicago the next night.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, they had the Pacers undivided attention. Center Roy Hibbert had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks and helped Indiana defeat Milwaukee 104-77 on Friday night.

Indiana (9-0) improved on the best start in franchise history. Pacers forward Paul George said the performance was an example of the team's focus. It was the kind of game the Pacers lost in previous seasons.

"The only motivation for us right now is just to win," he said. "We're not looking for a streak. Coach (Frank Vogel) keeps preaching to us, 'Don't get complacent.' Even in practice, don't get complacent. Coming into games, our motivation is to win that game. It's just a credit to us, finding that motivation each night and sticking to it."

George hit a 3-pointer with 4:15 remaining to score his 20th point. The forward, who finished with 22 points, scored at least 20 in each game this season. Guard Lance Stephenson added 11 points for the Pacers.

George gave the 7-foot-2 Hibbert credit for setting the tone. Hibbert did his damage in just 31 minutes.

"He's just taking that ownership of being the best defensive big, let alone, the best big, in this league," George said.

Guard O.J. Mayo scored 20 points and forward Khris Middleton and guard Gary Neal each added 11 for the Bucks (2-6), who lost their fourth straight. Milwaukee coach Larry Drew said the Pacers are a handful.

"They can beat you in a lot of different ways," he said. "They've got a lot of weapons. They're playing at a really high level right now."

The Pacers, who entered the game leading the league in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense, held the Bucks to 34 percent shooting and a season-low point total.

Indiana made believers out of the Bucks.

"The team is good," guard Luke Ridnour said. "They have a chance to win it (NBA title). They're built for it."

The Pacers scored 100 or more points for the first time this season. They got there when forward Chris Copeland hit a 3-pointer with 54.2 seconds remaining. The Pacers shot better than 50 percent for just the second time this season.

George and Hibbert sat out to start the second quarter and returned with the Pacers up 41-32 with 3:51 remaining. With their two stars back, the Pacers closed the half on an 11-5 surge to stretch their lead to 52-37 at the break. Guard George Hill closed the first-half scoring with a layup with one second remaining. Hibbert had 14 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in the first half.

The Bucks scored the first nine points of the second half to make it a game again. George scored six quick points to push Indiana's lead back to 59-48.

After two mid-range jumpers by George, Hibbert scored and was fouled. He converted the 3-point play to increase Indiana's lead to 71-55 late in the third quarter.

Hill hit a fade-away baseline jumper with 2.9 seconds left in the third quarter to help Indiana take a 75-61 lead at the end of the period. George scored 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the third quarter.

The Bucks cut Indiana's lead to 79-68 early in the fourth quarter. Indiana brought George back into the game, and the Pacers immediately got a boost. Forward Solomon Hill was fouled by Neal in the open court. It was called a clear-path foul, meaning two free throws and the ball. Hill made both free throws to push Indiana's lead back to 85-68.

"Milwaukee's a young team, not very experienced," Pacers forward David West said. "I thought we were the more mature team, the more developed team. We just handled things the way we're supposed to handle them."

Now, the Pacers can focus on the Bulls. Indiana defeated Chicago 97-80 on Nov. 6 in Indianapolis. George expects the Bulls to be ready on their homecourt.

"It's going to be a tough game," George said. "It's always a tough game against them. They always play well on their floor. One of the best defensive teams. It's going to be a slugfest. It always is."

NOTES: Bucks G Brandon Knight missed the game with a sore hamstring. F Caron Butler (left shoulder sprain), F Ersan Ilyasova (sore right ankle), G/F Carlos Delfino (right foot surgery) and C Larry Sanders (right thumb) also sat out. ... Pacers F Danny Granger sat out again with a strained left calf. He has not played this season. ... Pacers F Paul George entered the game sixth in the NBA with 24.9 points per game. ... Pacers C Roy Hibbert entered the day as the league leader with 4.38 blocks per game. Hibbert had four blocks in the first quarter against Milwaukee. ... The Pacers held the Bucks to 33 percent shooting in the first quarter and led 31-21 at the end of the period.
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