INDIANAPOLIS — There’s something about teams on a hot streak that makes the Indiana Pacers want to beat them.
Don’t expect to leave with momentum after playing in Indianapolis.
“It’s a different story when you come to play here,” said Pacer standout Paul George. “Whatever you’ve done previously, when a team comes in hot, we make that commitment that it’s going to be tough to play here.”
George scored 31 points, making four 3-pointers, to lead the Pacers to a 116-92 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
George was fouled driving to the basket with 8:36 remaining and converted the three-point play before Luis Scola made a free throw to cap off a 16-2 run in the fourth quarter.
George sparked the big run for Indiana with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Pacers an 86-74 lead at the end of the third quarter. The shot took away any hope the Kings (13-23) had left after Marcus Thornton made a trey with seconds left to put Sacramento within nine.
The NBA’s top defensive team had little trouble against a Sacramento team that scored over 100 points in 18 of the previous 19 games and held the Kings to under 100 points for the first time in 12 games.
Sacramento coach Mike Malone said taking care of the ball played a big role. Indiana forced 15 turnovers and scored 22 points off the Kings’ mistakes.
“To win on the road in the NBA against a great team, we cannot have the kind of turnovers we had,” he said. “They’re the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA for a reason.”
And despite breaking away with 19 third-quarter points, DeMarcus Cousins, who finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds, caused few problems for the Pacers.
He scored 12 points in the first half, with just three defensive rebounds, before he scored nine of Sacramento’s first 13 to open the second half.
“He was really the only one to go off,” Roy Hibbert said. “Everyone else was under their average, so I’m happy about that.”
Rudy Gay, who finished with 12 points, was the only other player to reach double-figure scoring for the Kings, whose season-best, three-game winning streak was snapped.
“I thought we reverted back to our old ways (Tuesday),” Gay said. “We have to do a better job of proving we are a changed team.”
Cousins picked up his third foul with 5:22 left in the third when Hibbert went up for a follow shot. Hibbert split from the line to give Indiana a 68-58 lead and Indiana kept just enough room.
David West had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Lance Stephenson added 13 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Pacers (30-7), who have won five of six.
The victory clinched the Eastern Conference coaching spot for Frank Vogel, since the Pacers are guaranteed to have the best winning percentage in the conference through games of Feb. 2 with Miami’s Erik Spoelstra ineligible after coaching last year.
“My name is on the release, but this is recognition of our team’s success,” Vogel said. “It’s a team honor and I’m really excited about it.”
The Pacers host New York and the Los Angeles Clippers before making a trip to the West Coast for five games.
Indiana didn’t waste any time taking a lead on the Kings, opening the game on an 11-2 run.
Hibbert converted a three-point play, George Hill made a layup and George dunked before Stephenson and West scored to give the Pacers the early lead with 8:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Then the Kings scored eight straight.
The Kings went on a late 7-2 run, but West scored to give the Pacers a 59-45 halftime lead.