Watch Paul George score season-high 39 points in Pacers’ win over Hornets (video)

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George couldn’t have picked a better time to take over a basketball game and lead the Pacers to a much-needed win.

During the second half of the second night of a back-to-back, George played like someone on three days’ rest.

George made six 3-pointers and scored 27 of his season high 39 points in the second half, and the Pacers knocked off the Hornets 98-77, keeping Indiana in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Charlotte and Indiana went into halftime knotted at 42. Less than 24 hours earlier, the Pacers blew a lead on the road and lost to the Knicks. Now, it appeared Indiana was on the verge of losing a second consecutive game and sliding to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

“There are times we lose focus out there,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought they responded tonight. They were all business from start to finish. We know we gave one away (last night) and they responded by playing hard, coming off (the first night of a) back-to-back and I think we were locked in every possession on what we needed to do.”

Jeff Teague added eight points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, Myles Turner finished with six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Monta Ellis scored 16 points for the Pacers.

Indiana led 50-47 in the third quarter when it looked as if both teams would trade the lead until the final minutes. But the moment George decided to put the game in his hands, so, too, did the rest of the Pacers decide to put the game away for good. Indiana used a 15-0 run to extend the lead and ultimately shut the door on the Hornets.

Charlotte outscored Indiana in the paint 42-18, but the Hornets shot just 40 percent (32 of 80) while the Pacers finished shooting 53 percent (39 of 73). 26 of Indiana’s 39 field goals came by way of an assist on Wednesday night. Frank Kaminsky finished with 20 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 10 points.

George was just too much for the Hornets to handle. The four-time All-Star made 15 of his 21 field goal attempts in addition to his six 3-pointers.

“Things came easy because of the offensive flow,” George said. “Also, playing a team for the fourth time, I knew how they were going to guard me and I tried to take advantage of it.”

The Hornets would make one last attempt at a comeback, opening the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run that would pull them within 10 points. But Indiana answered back with a run of its own, using a 14-2 spurt to go ahead by 22. Indiana’s largest lead of the game was 25 in the fourth quarter.

Wednesday night’s loss to Indiana was Charlotte’s third straight and its fourth in its previous five games. Indiana (35-33) is trying to maintain its hold on the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed, while the Hornets (29-39) sit four games out of the final playoff spot.

“You could see it right from the beginning of the game (George) had a look in his eye. Once he got into a rhythm, it’s hard to stop him,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “When we play well at both ends of the floor, we’ve been a good team. Tonight, our defense was good enough – except for the Paul George stuff – (but) we were poor offensively.”


Pacers: Have won only two of their last seven against Charlotte. … Since the All-Star break, the Pacers have held nine of their 11 opponents to fewer than 100 points. … Indiana has also outrebounded its opponents in nine of its 11 games since the All-Star break. … Indiana made four times as many 3-pointers as Charlotte did Wednesday night, finishing with 12, compared to the Hornets’ three.

Hornets: Are 4-11 this season when trailing after the third quarter.


Hornets: host Washington on Saturday

Pacers: visit Toronto on Sunday.

Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury

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In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.

Pacers use late surge to beat Clippers, close in on playoffs

Associated Press
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.

They certainly had a chance to turn things around.

After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.

Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.

The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.

They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.

The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.

Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.

Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.


LeBron James throws touchdown pass like Cleveland fans hope Sam Darnold can

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Cleveland fans can only hope Sam Darnold is as good a passer as LeBron James.

And that his receivers are better than Jose Calderon. Or at least taller.

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and threw a perfect touchdown pass to a leaked out Jose Calderon as the Cavaliers went on to beat the Phoenix Suns Friday night.

🙌🏽 @kingjames 🎯 @jmcalderon8 🙌🏽

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By the way, LeBron made a nice dish to the returned Larry Nance Jr., too.


Report: Rockets to waive Brandan Wright

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Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.

It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.

The Rockets are moving on, waiving Wright and bringing in forward Le’Bryan Nash out of the G-League on a 10-day contract, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…

He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.

 “Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”

Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.

The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.

Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.