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Pacers show they're more than George in win

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- Even without Paul George's usual offensive fireworks, the Indiana Pacers found a way to win.

George, a forward who entered Friday night's game against Charlotte as the league's No. 4 scorer at 24.7 points per game, finished with a season-low 10 on 2-for-12 shooting from the field. Lance Stephenson took over, scoring 20 points to help the Pacers defeat the Bobcats 99-94.

"The strength of this team is the group," Pacers forward David West said. "Every single night, our group is going to bring it. Maybe guys aren't making shots, he's (George) not making shots. We're going to put pressure on ourselves to fill in the holes, fill in the void."

Stephenson, a guard, made 9-of-14 shots from the field and had 11 rebounds and seven assists. Center Roy Hibbert added 18 points and 11 rebounds and West had 14 points and eight rebounds as the Pacers (20-3) remained undefeated in 11 home games.

Stephenson's effort was just another example of the explosive element he offers the team. West said Stephenson still is learning when to attack and when to defer, but his aggressiveness was needed against the Bobcats.

"He walks that line sometimes," West said. "Sometimes, selfishly, I wish he'd just take a little pizazz off it sometimes, in particular late in the game. We trust his instincts. He's got some of the best instincts in the league.

"His ability to just make a play, make a pass, make the right read puts him in that space where we say, 'OK, we're going to trust you to do what you have to do.'"

Center Al Jefferson had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Bobcats (10-13). Charlotte guards Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions each scored 13.

Now that they Pacers own the league's best record, they have become a measuring stick for upstart teams like the Bobcats.

"We recognize that and we expect that," Hibbert said. "We're focused, like, every game, so we have no letdowns, whether we play Miami or Charlotte or Washington or whoever. We're always focused."

Charlotte thought it wasted an opportunity.

"We played a hell of a game," Jefferson said. "We had a chance there at the end to be exactly where we wanted to be against a good team. We were right there."

George tried to give the Pacers control in the final minute, but he missed a 3-pointer and Charlotte, trailing 96-94, had a chance to tie or take the lead. Jefferson challenged the 7-foot-2 Hibbert in the paint, but Hibbert blocked his wild shot and West collected the rebound.

"It just slipped out of my hands," Jefferson said. "Most definitely the shot I wanted. That's a shot I make nine out of 10 times. Too much sweat."

Hibbert said Jefferson had a good game against him before that play.

"He got off a little bit," Hibbert said. "I take pride in my defense. I wasn't happy with it for the most part."

Pacers guard George Hill was fouled with 15.1 seconds left and made two free throws to give Indiana a 98-94 lead. George made the second of two free throws with 8.1 seconds left to provide the final margin.

Indiana led by a point at halftime, but Charlotte opened the second half with a surge. A pull-up jumper by Walker gave the Bobcats a 67-61 lead three minutes into the third quarter and forced the Pacers to call timeout.

Indiana bounced back after the short break. A 3-pointer by Hill tied the score at 70, and West scored to give the Pacers the lead again.

Indiana extended its lead to 79-72, but the Bobcats scored the last four points of the quarter to cut Indiana's advantage to 79-76 heading into the fourth.

Indiana did just enough in the fourth quarter to hold on.

"That's a good win against a good team we have respect for," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We understood this would be a battle of a game, and it was."

NOTES: Charlotte F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (fractured left hand) and C Brendan Haywood (fractured left foot) did not play. ... Indiana F Danny Granger, who was slated for a possible Friday return, did not play. He has missed the entire season with a strained left calf. ... Charlotte F/C Cody Zeller, who starred for Indiana University last season before going in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft, returned to the state for the first time as a pro. ... Former Pacers F Josh McRoberts started for the Bobcats. ... The Pacers won the first meeting between the teams 99-74 in Charlotte. ... Charlotte G Kemba Walker hit a 3-pointer as time expired in the first quarter to cut Indiana's lead to 27-25.
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