George energizes high-flying Pacers

AP

Paul George put an emphatic 360-degree twist on the Pacers’ latest blowout.

Lob City’s stars just watched in amazement.

George scored 36 points, the last two on a reverse windmill dunk that brought fans to their feet and the Clippers to their knees in Indiana’s 106-92 rout Saturday night.

“It was just instinctive,” George said after helping to end the Clippers’ five-game winning streak. “I wanted to put on a show for the fans.”

The entire season has been a showcase for the Pacers (32-7), who have the NBA’s best record, the league’s best home record at 21-1 and a 3½-game lead in the Eastern Conference over two-time defending champion Miami.

George’s highlight-reel dunks and Lance Stephenson’s increasingly commonplace poses are all becoming part of Indiana’s normal routine.

George, last year’s Most Improved Player, has six 30-point games and 27 20-point games this season. The 23-year-old emerging star is ranked among the league leaders in scoring, free-throw percentage and steals, and he might be higher in rebounds and assists if the Pacers weren’t blowing teams out with regularity.

Critics might contend the only real thing missing from his resume is pizazz. Those complaints disappeared with one dunk contest move that George saved for game time. Armed with a 20-point lead and a clear path to the basket, he leapt in the air, spun around, slammed the ball with one hand, stuck the landing and ran back to play defense. Fans and most of his teammates immediately jumped to their feet.

“I just wanted to celebrate,” Stephenson said. “I didn’t want to get back on defense. I’ve not seen one like that in a game I’ve been in.”

Indiana fans haven’t seen anything quite like this season, either, not even when Reggie Miller was running the show.

The Pacers have now won four straight, all by at least 14 points, and fell just short of winning four in a row by 20 or more points for the first time in franchise history.

All this came on a night Indiana wasn’t even at full strength in the second half. Power forward David West was ejected at halftime after the officials gave him a flagrant 2 foul after a replay review. All-Star center Roy Hibbert and West’s backup, Luis Scola, started the fourth quarter on the bench in foul trouble and wound up taking the rest of the night off.

Indiana didn’t even need them. George barely missed, going 12 of 17 from the field, 5 of 6 on 3-pointers and 7 of 7 from the free-throw line. He had six points and three steals, too.

Stephenson, who leads the NBA with three triple-doubles, settled for 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

For Los Angeles, Jamal Crawford finished with 22 points off the bench, while Blake Griffin had 19 points and 17 rebounds.

Heat 104, Bobcats 96 (OT)

In Charlotte, LeBron James had 34 points and eight boards, and Miami beat the Bobcats for the 15th straight time.

Timberwolves 98, Jazz 72

In Minnesota, Nikola Pekovic had 27 points and 14 rebounds in three quarters to lead the Timberwolves.

Warriors 97, Pelicans 87

In New Orleans, Stephen Curry scored 28 points, David Lee added 22 and Golden State sent the hosts to their eighth straight loss.

Rockets 114, Bucks 104

In Houston, Terrence Jones had a career-high 36 points and 11 rebounds in a game the Rockets led from the start.

Bulls 103, 76ers 78

In Chicago, Joakim Noah had 21 points and 16 rebounds, Carlos Boozer added 15 points and 13 boards, and the Bulls won for the seventh time in nine games this month.

Pistons 104, Wizards 98

In Washington, Josh Smith overcame a slow start to score 22 points and Rodney Stuckey added 20 to lead Detroit.

John Wall scored 34 points, including Washington’s last 10, as the Wizards snapped a three-game winning streak.

Blazers 127, Mavericks 111

In Dallas, LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 12 rebounds, and Portland ran past the Mavs for its fifth straight win.