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.”


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.


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 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.”


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.

Rumor: Injured Jimmy Butler wore his jersey under shirt and jacket on Timberwolves bench

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Jimmy Butler‘s competitive fire burns hot.

How hot?

Butler is chomping at the bit to return from his knee injury. He sat on the Timberwolves’ bench during their loss to the Rockets last night wearing what appeared to be typical attire for a sidelined player. But dig deeper, and…

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This story is too good to check out.

Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers lineup Monday vs. Bucks

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The last time Kevin Love suited up for the Cavaliers, it was still January and Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder were still on the team.

That is about to change tonight — Love will return from a fractured hand and play for the Cavaliers, but on a minutes restriction to start, interim coach Larry Drew confirmed.

Cleveland needs Love back. The Cavaliers went 11-9 without him in this stretch (and 6-7 since the All-Star break) with an offense that has still been top 10 in the NBA but a defense that is holding them back. The Cavaliers’ defense is just not on the same page right now, and the more time the regular rotations guys get to play together, the better they should be before the playoffs start.

As Love rounds into form, the Cavaliers have to figure out their rotations. Does Love start Love next to Larry Nance Jr., or does Nance come off the bench again? Probably the latter, but the Cavaliers will toy with the rotations (and do that more when Tristan Thompson returns).

Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis cited for public intoxication

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What happened to Steve Francis [after his playing days]? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad (as drug use). In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.”
—Steve Francis, writing in the Players’ Tribune earlier this month, about his journey from selling crack to the NBA, and what happened after.

Addiction, once it’s got you, never goes away. The fight to stay sober/clean is a new one every day.

Steve Francis was cited for public intoxication in Burbank, Calif., after an incident at a hotel bar, according to TMZ (since confirmed by other reports).

Francis, 41, was arrested around 11:40 PM after police were called for a disturbance between two men at a hotel in Burbank.

Law enforcement sources tell us when cops arrived, Francis was intoxicated. He was arrested for being drunk in public.

Francis was transported to jail … before being given a citation and released around 7 AM Monday morning.

Francis denied in the Players’ Tribune article rumors he had a drug problem, but he owned up to drinking.

Lakers coach Luke Walton: I thought Pacers’ Paul George trade was ‘lopsided’ in favor of Thunder

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said the Pacers “could have done better” than trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Gilbert would have company with egg on their face if more people shared their views on the deal when it happened.

Lakers coach Luke Walton – whose team plays Indiana tonight – joined the club with an admission.



Originally, I thought it was kind of a lopsided trade, but I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong. Indiana has, I think they’re probably the surprise team of the season so far. They’re playing unbelievable. They have that three seed. And both of those players they got in the trade, they’re playing some really, really good basketball. So, obviously, a good trade for both teams.

Me too, Luke. Me too.

George is basically who we thought he was. But Oladipo and Sabonis have taken major steps forward. Sabonis’ growth as a second-year player was more predictable. Oladipo’s breakthrough seemed far less likely – and has carried far larger ramifications.

Oladipo was fine in Oklahoma City and Orlando, but he got into the best shape of his life and developed his outside shooting, particularly off the dribble. He has become a true star, putting up big offensive numbers while remaining a plus defender.

All the credit goes to Oladipo for making it happen and Pacers president Kevin Pritchard for ensuring Indiana reaped the rewards. I bet even Pritchard is surprised by Oladipo’s level of play, but Pritchard bet on Oladipo. Pritchard gets credit for the outcome.

People like Walton and myself eat crow.