Paul George’s big night leads Pacers to 120-101 rout of Rockets

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Paul George delivered a message Sunday night.

James Harden might have those eye-popping offensive numbers, but it’s the Indiana Pacers All-Star who remains one of the league’s most complete players.

George scored 33 points, grabbed nine rebounds and hounded the NBA’s second-leading scorer into one of his worst games this season to help the Pacers rout the Houston Rockets 120-101.

“It’s fun playing against the good matchups,” George said. “I get a rush and it’s an excitement for me. It’s what people come out to see – me versus him and us versus them.”

Those who have watched George lately probably should have expected another impressive showing.

He matched a career high by topping the 30-point mark for the fourth straight game. George made 13 of 23 shots, 3 of 7 pointers and all four of his free throw attempts. He dished out three assists, had one steal and one blocked shot, leading Indiana to its third straight win.

And on defense, George was absolutely stifling.

Just two days after Harden put up 51 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists at Philadelphia, the five-time All-Star was just 3 of 17 from the field, 2 of 10 on 3s and had 15 points, five rebounds, eight assists and eight turnovers. He played less than three minutes in the final quarter after picking up his fifth foul with 37 seconds left in the third.

Ryan Anderson led the Rockets with 27 points on the final leg of a five-game road trip.

“We just didn’t have it,” Harden said. “It was a long road trip. It was a tough game. It was just one of those games where we didn’t have it.”

Perhaps fatigue was a factor, but George also had plenty of help.

Myles Turner had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Jeff Teague finished with 17 points and 15 assists, and Glenn Robinson III added 14 points in a game that was never really in doubt.

Indiana led 33-20 after the first quarter, allowed Houston to get as close as six late in the first half and then pushed the lead to 20 in the third quarter. Houston never got closer than 12 in the second half.

“We need PG to be PG, whether that’s scoring 30 or if it’s dishing out 10 assists or whether that’s locking up another team’s best player,” Turner said. “We just need him to be him.”

TIP-INS

Rockets: Have lost four of their last five in Indianapolis. … … Five of Houston’s last seven losses have come by 10 or more points. … The Rockets have attempted 2,015 3s this season. … Eric Gordon finished with 14 points in front of his hometown fans after returning from a tight lower back that had kept him out of the previous two games.

Pacers: Finished January with a 9-4 record while averaging 110.8 points. … Turner had his sixth double-double in 13 games and added four blocks – the 12th time this season he’s had at least four in a game. … The Pacers improved to 18-6 at home this season.

IMPERFECT NIGHT

Houston was incredibly imperfect Sunday. It flirted with a season-low shooting percentage until the final minutes, when the percentage jumped to 41.0. The Rockets were 11 of 39 on 3s and the 19-point margin matched their worst off the season.

TEAGUE TIME

Teague was acquired in a summer trade that included Atlanta and Utah, and the former All-Star has really cranked it up. Since Dec. 7, Teague has 12 double-doubles in 26 games, is averaging a career-best 4.3 rebounds and his assist numbers continue to increase.

“It takes time for all of us to adapt and learn how he can be productive in this system,” coach Nate McMillan said. “I think he’s starting to get a better idea of how he can help us.”

UP NEXT

Rockets: Will go after their seventh straight home win over Sacramento on Tuesday at the start of a four-game home stand.

Pacers: Face former coach Frank Vogel for the third time this season when they visit Orlando on Wednesday. Indiana has won the first two games this season.

Pacers owner says team not for sale, will not be moved from Indianapolis

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There are more than a few NBA owners who are seeing the prices teams are being sold for — the Rockets just sold for a record $2.2 billion — and considering their options. Some other billionaires are looking for teams, several with the goal of packing up the franchise and moving it to their respected hometowns.

Those billionaires need not call Herb Simon. The Pacers owner said the team is not going anywhere, speaking to Gregg Doyel of the IndyStar.

“I want to leave my legacy: This team permanently in Indianapolis,” Simon told IndyStar Friday in an interview at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “That’s my No. 1 goal.”

Simon bought the Pacers in 1983 with his older brother, Melvin — who died in 2009 at age 82. He told IndyStar the team someday will be owned by his 53-year-old son, Steve. Behind the scenes, Steve Simon has been working closely with Pacers Sports and President Rick Fuson for five years — “He knows more about the dollars and cents than I do,” Herb said of his son — and met this week with several department heads.

“If anything happens to me, he’d be taking over,” Herb said, adding that father and son are on the same page: The Pacers are staying in Indianapolis.

Good. That is as it should be.

Indiana is part of America’s basketball heartland, and it should have a team. Pacers fans are smart and loyal, and the team has a long history going back to the ABA, running from Mel Daniels and George McGinnis through Reggie Miller and up to Myles Turner (hopefully he can be on the level of the rest of them someday). They play in the coolest basketball building in the league, one with the history of the sport wolven in.

Indy is the nation’s 27th largest television market, bigger than San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and other successful NBA franchises. There is no reason the Pacers cannot thrive, so long as ownership is committed.

They are. Which is excellent news for Pacers’ fans.

Stan Van Gundy speaks out again in support of protesting athletes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy used his team’s trip to Washington to again voice his support for athletes who kneel during the national anthem and his opposition to President Donald Trump.

Van Gundy was asked before Friday night’s game against the Wizards what he hoped would result from the president’s criticism of NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem and the resulting national dialogue about political activism by professional athletes.

“I don’t know what good can come out of anything the president has said,” Van Gundy said. “As far as the athletes’ protest, I hope people would pay attention to the issues that caused the protest in the first place and realize that we have problem disproportionately with police brutality towards men of color.”

Van Gundy also criticized fans who have booed those athletes because they believe the gesture is disrespectful to the United States military.

“I thought that one of the things the military is fighting for is the American way of life and our values, which I think starts with freedom of speech,” Van Gundy said. “Our country was founded on protest. Otherwise, we would still be a colony of England. You would think people would appreciate non-violent protests that will be made.

“If you don’t stand for freedom of speech and you don’t think those players have the right to freedom of speech, what American values are you for?”

It was not the first time Van Gundy has spoken out on these issues. When Trump was elected last November, Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press it was the first time he had been “ashamed” of his country.

Last month on the team’s media day, he read a prepared statement in support of athletes who use their visibility for political purposes, including protests during the anthem. The NBA has a policy requiring that players stand for the anthem.

The Pistons’ visit to Washington was their first since Jan. 21, one day after Trump’s inauguration.

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Cavaliers’ Derrick Rose out Saturday with sprained left ankle

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Cavaliers point guard Derrick Rose was held out of Saturday night’s game against the Orlando Magic because of a sprained left ankle.

Rose twisted his ankle after being fouled by Milwaukee’s Greg Monroe while driving to the basket in the fourth quarter on Friday. Monroe grabbed Rose by his neck and pulled him to the floor.

Rose landed awkwardly, but stayed in the game to shoot two free throws before going to the bench. The play was originally called a common foul but was upgraded to a flagrant 1 Saturday by the NBA.

Jose Calderon started at point guard Saturday for the Cavaliers, who have won their first two games.

Rose signed a one-year contract with Cleveland in July. He became the team’s starter when Kyrie Irving was traded to Boston. Rose was named the league’s MVP in 2011 while with the Chicago Bulls, but has battled injuries since.

 

Kyrie Irving, any regrets about using profanity toward fan? “Hell no.”

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Fans yelling obscenities at NBA players and trying to goad them into a response — always while camera phones are recording — has become a thing. DeMarcus Cousins will be paying $25,000 for responding to a fan cursing at him in Memphis.

Kyrie Irving is likely going to get fined for an incident Friday night after the Celtics knocked off the Sixers in Philadephia. It made the rounds on social media Friday night, with a fan yelling at Irving as he leaves the court “Kyrie, where’s LeBron?” and Irving responding with a crude phrase. Here is the exchange as Irving leaves the court (NOTE: The language is NSFW, if offended don’t watch the video).

Saturday Irving was asked about the incident, and he admitted he should have bit his tongue, but he has no regrets, as reported by A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“Hell no,” Irving said (when asked if he had regrets). “Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s the social media platform we live on.

Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”

Irving also addressed the bigger issue, something Cousins discussed when talking about his fine. Via Chris Forsberg at ESPN.

“At the end of the day, we’re human. It’s in heat of the moment and frustrations arise, we were at halftime, we were down by 4, in an environment, a season-opener in Philly. Being with a young team like we have here and staying composed, handling that before we go in the locker room and addressing what we have to do in the locker room and going out and handling business and getting the W, that’s really the only thing that matters to me.

“It’s up to the league at this point. But, like I said, I’m going to take full responsibility for what I said. I don’t have any regrets for it.”

Irving is going to get fined. The league has issues with its players cursing at fans. Understandably.

That said, the league may need to step back on consider situations like this. If fans are taunting players, at what point should a player be able to respond to the fan? Should arena security (at the request of the officials, or maybe a player) intervene? Players should not be asked to bite their tongue no matter what is said, and even if a fan paid for a ticket it doesn’t give them the right to cross any line. As more fans seem to go after their 15 minutes of social media fame baiting players, the league may need to reconsider where it draws its lines.