By Kyle Beery
It wasn’t quite a Jimmy Chitwood picket fence type of moment, but Paul George scored 36 points to lift the Indiana Pacers to a 90-87 win over the Miami Heat on the Pacers’ Hickory Game Night.
Donned in authentic maroon and gold Hickory uniforms from the classic movie “Hoosiers,” George led the way for Indiana (3-3) by scoring 11 of his 36 in the fourth quarter. He put up his second straight double-double and his third of the season.
George has been arriving to the gym early to get in extra shots, and he said it is starting to pay off.
“I think I’m getting more comfortable with the offense,” he said. “Tonight, from the tip I got a quick layup and felt good from there on. And then I got rolling in the second half.”
He went 8-for-12 from the field, 5-for-7 from the free throw line and pulled down eight rebounds in the second half.
Despite his offensive performance, George thought the Pacers showed that they are still a defensive-minded team, holding the Heat to 87 points.
“That’s what this team has been about since I’ve been here, it’s all about defense,” he said. “It’s good that we’re starting to form defensively, even though we’re yet to really sit down and really get our hands into it. We’ve still got to get an offensive flow.”
Miami (3-3) had a chance to tie the game on the final possession, but Dwyane Wade missed a three-point attempt as he tried to draw a foul. He was upset with officials that there was no call.
Wade was held scoreless in the second half after scoring nine in the first half.
Indiana head coach Frank Vogel showed a mix of the new-look small lineup and a traditional big lineup. Both seemed to work, but Jordan Hill was making an impact, so Vogel stuck with him, even with another big man on the floor, he said.
“He came in and gave us a big lift, which he has all year,” Vogel said. “He’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the game.”
Hill finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, also getting his second straight double-double.
Ian Mahinmi returned to the lineup after missing the last game with a back injury, but finished with just six points and six rebounds.
Miami’s Chris Bosh finished with 21 points, scoring just two in the final quarter. Rookie Justise Winslow picked up the slack in the final stanza, scoring seven points of his 13 points on the night.
Second year player Glenn Robinson III continued to find his rhythm in just his second game with the Pacers.
He scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting. Rodney Stuckey had six points off the bench before suffering an apparent ankle injury in the second quarter. He was down on the floor before being helped into the locker room. Vogel said there was no update on his status after the game.
The Pacers will put their three-game winning streak on the line at Cleveland on Sunday. The defending Eastern Conference Champions are 5-1 on the year, riding a five-game winning streak after losing their season opener at Chicago.
LeBron James is the Cavs’ leading scorer with 22.2 points per game, followed by Kevin Love with 17.0 PPG and Mo Williams at 15.3
While a five-game winning streak is always impressive, the Cavs’ opponents over that stretch have a combined 8-15 season record, including two games against the winless 76ers.
Indiana split the season series with Cleveland last season. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday.