George Leads Pacers Past Wizards 93-73
INDIANAPOLIS — Lance Stephenson slumped his shoulders and dragged his feet to the bench with three minutes left in the game. Three points shy of a triple-double, Stephenson heard the crowd boo his removal and chant moments later for his return.
Things are going so well for the Indiana Pacers that they can contemplate personal milestones and finally turn their attention to a difficult road trip awaiting them in early December.
“I knew we would be a good team,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “They are driven and hungry. We’re off to a good start.”
Paul George scored 23 points and Roy Hibbert added 13 and eight rebounds to easily lead surging Indiana past injury hampered Washington 93-73 on Friday night. The Pacers won their sixth straight and extended their best start in franchise history to 15-1.
The Wizards (7-9) snapped a three-game winning streak and lost their 11th straight game in Indianapolis. They committed 18 turnovers, shot 40 percent from the field and went 6-of-18 from 3-point range.
Star point guard John Wall struggled badly, rarely attacked the rim and finished with eight points on 4-of-14 shooting. Marcin Gortat led Washington with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Trevor Ariza scored 14.
The Pacers shut out a transition attack that came in ranked second in the NBA. After averaging 18.6 points a game on the fast break, Washington had none against the defensive-minded Pacers.
“When we did get in the open court we turned the ball over,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “They got back and jammed the lane. That was the opposite of how we wanted to play.”
Washington had won five of six before injuries finally caught up. The team announced shortly before the game that starting power forward Nene would sit due to a sore right Achilles tendon. Also missing were starting shooting guard Bradley Beal and prized rookie Otto Porter, the No. 3 pick in the draft.
“That took a little bit out of us,” Wittman said. “Down seven (43-36) at half, It might have been one of our worst halves. I could tell they just didn’t have the vibe. We were drained.”
As usual, the Pacers stifled spirits and took control in the third quarter. They entered the day outscoring opponents by an average of 6.7 points in the third and followed that script once more by outscoring Washington 26-20 to carry a 69-56 lead to the fourth. The gap only widened from there.
“We just come out focused,” George said. “We really are dialed in. We are working on that dead spot in the second quarter. Hopefully we can shore that up on our road trip.”
Stephenson departed with seven points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He made multiple flashy passes that drew oohs and aahs before Vogel replaced him with Orlando Johnson.
On Wednesday in Charlotte, Stephenson had 15 points and 10 rebounds. He had the first two triple-doubles of his career earlier this month.
Vogel knew bigger things are ahead.
“I love to see guys get triple-doubles. But you can’t make moves that compromise the next game,” Vogel said.
The Pacers begin a five-game road trip against the Western Conference on Sunday at the Los Angeles Clippers. Four of the five opponents are above .500 and the slate ends with games against Oklahoma City and reigning conference champ San Antonio.
Vogel had hushed talk of the trip to help the team focus. Now, Indiana is ready to test its league-best record against other top teams.
“We must continue to play our game on the road trip,” forward David West said. “This will really tell us something and give us an idea of what we are made of. They’re all good teams. We’ll have to play at our highest level.”
The Wizards, who trailed 28-14 after the opening quarter, made their only push in the second with George and Hibbert on the bench. They scored on 10 of their first 15 possessions and got as close as 38-34 when Trevor Booker hustled for an offensive rebound and made a layup. But Indiana allowed just two points over the final 4 ½ minutes of the half to end the run.
Hibbert scored 10 points in the third on 4-of-5 shooting after an 0-of-5 first half. Indiana shot 11-of-20 as a team in the third.
NOTES: Pacers forward Danny Granger has yet to play this season due to lingering effects of a strained right calf. . The Wizards, 3-0 on the second night of a back-to-back, host Atlanta on Saturday night. . The Pacers went 3-1 against Washington last season. All the victories came when Wall was hurt. . Nene missed two previous games with a left calf strain. Washington lost both. . Boxer Floyd Mayweather attended the game.