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Pacers' George makes his case for an All-Star berth

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- If there's any doubt about Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George being named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, it may be time to remove it.

George, who has a good chance to be named an All-Star reserve next week, scored 31 points to lead the Pacers to a 105-95 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday. The Pacers have won 11 straight games at home, and they start a four-game road trip on Monday at Memphis.

The Rockets have lost six straight games.

"Paul George, what can you say?" Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "He was dominant tonight."

George has outplayed Miami's LeBron James and Houston's James Harden in the past week.

George looked like he was on his way to a career high when he scored 18 points in the first quarter, matching the first-quarter total of the entire Rockets' team.

"I don't think there's any question," Vogel said about George being an All-Star. "All (the coaches) have to do is look at this game. You can look at the last six weeks or so, but he was dominating tonight. I think that will answer your question."

In a battle of the Rockets' top-ranked offense in the league against the top-ranked defense in the league, it was the defense that came out on top.

The Pacers held the Rockets to 41 percent shooting and forced them into 18 turnovers, while Indiana shot 46 percent from the field.

"I think everybody is worn out," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We don't have a lot of zip right now or a lot of juice and have to get it back. It's a long season and we have to find it again."

Harden, who went into the game averaging more than 26 points a game, was held to 17 on 5-of-19 shooting with five turnovers.

"We know he's one of the best guards in the league as far as creating his own shots and shots for others and getting to the free throw line," Pacers forward David West said. "I thought we did a good job of contesting all of his shots."

The Pacers wasted little time getting a double-digit lead on the Rockets. They went up by 10 points on a West 17-foot jumper off an assist from George late in the first quarter.

"I thought we had to lock in on their transition, their ability to score in the hundreds," West said. "We did a good job of keeping them in the 90s. I thought guys did a good job of locking in and limiting them in transition."

Indiana led by as many as 16 points early the second quarter before the Rockets made things interesting and got as close as three points on a Harden jumper with 1:18 left in the half.

Houston kept the game close for most of third quarter until the Pacers went on a 10-2 run to get their lead back up to 16 points.

The Pacers led by 14 at the end of the third quarter.

Center Omer Asik led the Rockets with 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

NOTES: The Pacers got some positive news about swingman Danny Granger on Friday. Granger, out all season with a left knee injury, took part in non-contact drills during the team's morning shootaround. He's expected to increase his non-contact activities during the team's four-game West Coast road trip. "It's good to see him back out there," Vogel said. "We're going to treat it almost like we have a new player. He's been at every practice and film session. He understands the concepts of what we're doing." The Pacers are still optimistic that Granger will be able to return to the lineup shortly before the All-Star break. Granger may initially start coming off the bench until he gets into shape, but Vogel said Granger will eventually be in the starting lineup...Pacers swingman Gerald Green missed the game with food poisoning. Rookie Orlando Johnson took his minutes...Friday was the start of five straight games against Western Conference teams for the Pacers... Vogel said he believes Harden, who is fourth in the league in scoring, will make the Western Conference All-Star team as a reserve.
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