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West's triple-double lifts Pacers past Bobcats

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers didn't need Paul George in the lineup to keep their home winning streak intact.

The Pacers shook off a slow start in the first quarter to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 96-88 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday.

"I thought we did good job filling in for PG," Pacers forward David West said. "PG has been a rock for us all year. Charlotte poises a difficulty because they're so good up top with Kemba (Walker) and Ben Gordon. They're capable of beating good teams."

The victory extended the Pacers' longest winning streak at home since the 2002 season to 10 games. They haven't loss at home since blowing a 17-point second half lead to the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 23. The Pacers are now half-game behind the New York Knicks for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

George, the team's leading scorer, missed his first game of the season with a case of the flu. It's uncertain if he'll play in Sunday's game at the Brooklyn Nets.

West not only produced in the scoring department in George's absence, he did it with rebounding and distributing the ball, too. He recorded his first triple-double by finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the franchise's first triple-double in points, rebounds and assists since Derrick McKey recorded one during the 1995-96 season.

West got his triple off an assist to guard Lance Stephenson late in the fourth quarter.

"I took one dribble so he'd get that," Stephenson said. "That's what teammates do."

George Hill and Stephenson added 19 and 17 points, respectively, for Indiana. Guard Ben Gordon came off the bench to score 21 points in 26 minutes for Charlotte.

The Pacers (23-14) opened the game like they were ready for the Bobcats to beat them for the second time in as many games this season. The Pacers missed their first 11 shots of the game and dug themselves an early 10-1 hole.

But then again, they were playing the struggling Bobcats (9-27), who are on a three-game losing streak.

The Pacers regrouped and eventually got a brief lead -- 23-22 -- on a Hill 3-pointer with 21 seconds left in the first quarter.

"Give them credit for scoring the ball and running and pushing the tempo, they were tough to guard all night," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

The Pacers got going behind the 3-point line in the second quarter. Six of their seven field goals in the second quarter were 3-pointers.

The Bobcats managed to go back-and-forth with the Pacers through the first half, even having a two-point lead at halftime. The Pacers finally took the lead for good -- 57-56 -- on a turnaround jumper from West. The Bobcats got to within one more time in the fourth quarter before the Pacers outscored them 20-13 the rest of the game.

Vogel used backup center Ian Mahinmi over starter Roy Hibbert in the final quarter because of Hibbert's struggles with guarding pick-and-rolls on the perimeter, especially against quick guards like Walker.

"We couldn't stop them," Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson said. "We were doubling them. David West is a really good passer and he was finding guys and kind of put is in rotations. It was tough to get it back to really close because they were still scoring." NOTES: George is the fourth Pacer -- Lance Stephenson, George Hill and Ben Hansbrough were the others -- to miss a game because of the flu this season. Dominic McGuire, who signed a 10-day contract with the Pacers last week, started in George's spot at small forward. ... Henderson returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the previous three games. ... The Pacers say this is the best team chemistry wise that they've had in several years. They also say this is the reason why they've been able to get off to a strong start despite being without starting small forward Danny Granger all season. "This is definitely the best team I've been around my three years here," George said. "Before we had a lot of guys going at each other. Everybody had an ego to them in the past. This year, it's all one big ego, and that's putting the team first." ... Hibbert returned to the lineup after sitting out most of Thursday's game against the New York Knicks because of back spasms.
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