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Paul George scores 32 as Pacers beat Pistons 121-116

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Paul George had 32 points and the Indiana Pacers beat the Detroit Pistons 121-116 on Tuesday night.

Myles Turner and Jeff Teague each scored 17 for Indiana, which blew a 15-point first-half lead but pulled away in the fourth quarter to win its third straight game. The Pacers (18-18) are 2 1/2 games ahead of Detroit (16-21) in the Eastern Conference standings.

Tobias Harris led the Pistons with 22 points. Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson each had a double-double.

Detroit lost for the eighth time in 10 games, with two of the defeats coming at home to Indiana.

The Pacers hit six of seven 3-pointers in the first quarter to score a season-high 36 points and take an eight-point lead. The margin was as big as 15 in the second before the Pistons rallied late to pull to 66-60.

George and Teague each had 14 points in Indiana’s highest-scoring half of the season. The Pacers shot 59 percent from the floor, 88 percent on 3-pointers and 93 percent from the foul line.

Detroit also shot well, hitting 57 percent of its shots, but couldn’t keep up despite 13 points from Jackson.

Jackson’s jumper early in the third cut the lead to 73-72 and prompted a timeout from Indiana coach Nate McMillan. Jackson’s alley-oop to Drummond tied the game at 77, and it was 92-all going into the fourth quarter.

Indiana’s offense got hot again early in the fourth, and the Pacers built a 103-96 lead with seven minutes to play. George’s three-point play with 3:28 left made it 114-104, and Detroit couldn’t get enough stops to threaten until the final minute.

Marcus Morris‘ two 3-pointers pulled Detroit to 119-114 with 50.3 seconds left and, after a turnover, Drummond’s putback made it a three-point game. Monta Ellis made two free throws before Morris and Jackson missed at the other end.

TIP-INS

Pacers: The win was Indiana’s fifth of the season on the road, and it snapped a three-game losing streak away from Indianapolis. The Pacers are 2-0 at the Palace this season, and 3-13 in other road games.

Pistons: With Aron Baynes sidelined by an ankle injury, Detroit went with little-used Boban Marjanovic as Drummond’s backup. Marjanovic matched up mostly with Al Jefferson, who always gives Drummond problems.

HISTORIC RIVALRY

As part of the last season at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Pistons spent much of the night honoring great moments from their rivalry with Indiana. The list was heavily populated by their postseason battles in the mid-2000s, with No. 1 being Tayshaun Prince’s chase-down block of Reggie Miller in the 2004 Eastern Conference finals. Not a surprise: The most memorable Pistons-Pacers moment, the brawl involving Ron Artest and fans in November 2004, was not included.

UP NEXT

Pacers: Host the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.

Pistons: Host the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.

Donald Sterling’s wife petitioning NBA to overturn his lifetime ban

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Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling settled his lawsuit against the NBA and his wife. Reconciled with Shelley Sterling, Donald sounds – in a recent interview with James Rainey of NBC News – ready to move on.

Rainey:

But his wife, Shelly Sterling, also 83, said in a separate interview that she has not let go of at least one formal blot that remains on Sterling’s record: the lifetime ban from the NBA that was imposed on the long-time Clippers owner after his racist remarks against African-Americans attending games.

Shelly Sterling said she personally approached Silver and also had her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, talk to the league office about lifting the lifetime ban, which prevents Donald Sterling from attending NBA games. Her intention is not to allow her husband to do business with the league, but to clear his record, in consideration of the 33 years he spent as an owner.

“”I couldn’t understand the severity of the ban. It just seemed a little bit out of line,” Shelly Sterling said. “I have talked to [the NBA] several times and I don’t know what they will do. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t [lift the ban]. Maybe it takes a little bit more time.”

The NBA won’t lift the ban for the same reason it implemented the ban: Associating with Sterling was costing the league money.

Time has cooled the resentment toward Sterling, but overturning the ban would return the venom – and much of it would be directed toward the league. There’s no good reason to open that box.

Besides, Sterling – with his lengthy record of racism and sexism – doesn’t deserve clemency. People like him deserve far more comeuppance than they’ve gotten.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.

Hawks hire Travis Schlenk as general manager

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The Hawks picked Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk as their next general manager. All that was left was negotiating terms.

That’s done.

Hawks:

The Atlanta Hawks today announced the hiring of Travis Schlenk as General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations. He will start leading Hawks basketball operations on June 1.

Schlenk worked his way up the latter and helped the Warriors become the envy of every other NBA team. He deserves this opportunity.

But the job won’t be easy.

The Hawks are stuck between two directions. On one side, they have veterans Paul Millsap (a 32-year-old pending unrestricted free agent whom the owner has basically promised a huge contract) and Dwight Howard (who sounds unhappy). On the other side, they have a youth movement featuring Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. Tim Hardaway Jr., who bridges the age groups, is about to enter a potentially tricky restricted free agency.

Keeping the core together offers the upside of a playoff-series victory or two annually, modest outcomes for the cost. But a fragile Atlanta fan base might not tolerate a rebuild.

Schlenk works for owner Tony Ressler, and Ressler sounds committed to maintaining the status quo by keeping Millsap. It’s now Schlenk’s job to execute that vision or convince his boss to approve a different direction.