INDIANAPOLIS – Roy Hibbert threw the inside body jabs Tuesday night. Paul George finished it off with the knockout blow.
Together, the Indiana Pacers’ devastating one-two scoring punch hurt the two-time defending league champions.
Hibbert finished with 24 points, George made two big three-pointers during a 15-point second-half scoring spree and Indiana rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to beat the Miami Heat 90-84.
“It was fun, a real intense game,” George said. “Both teams were playing at a high level. You could see an urgency to win this game tonight.”
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Indiana, which leads the league at 19-3, extended its franchise-record home start to 10-0 and took a three-game advantage over Miami in the early chase for home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.
There is a rematch in Miami on Dec. 18. The teams won’t meet again until March 26 in Indy, then head back to Miami on April 11.
“It’s just one game,” Hibbert said. “We’re going to learn from it. It’s a learning experience. It’s still early in the season. We have a lot more work to do.”
To the average fan, it looked a lot like last season’s East final series that Miami won in seven games.
LeBron James’ defense and Miami’s physical double-teams frustrated George most of the night, but when George finally got free late, he made three big three-point baskets to help the Pacers pull away. George, the league’s No. 4 scorer, finished with 17 points.
“I knew it was going to be a night when I was going to explode offensively,” George said. “I knew I had to move the ball and share it.”
Chasing George apparently took a toll on James and the Heat (16-6).
While James, the league’s No. 2 scorer, did finish with 17 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, he was a mere 3 of 11 from the field and Miami suffered its third loss in five games.
“I thought we brought it tonight,” James said. “We know they’re a very good defensive team. I thought they hit some tough shots and they attacked the rim real well.”
Nets beat Celtics
NEW YORK – Deron Williams scored a season-high 25 points in his return to the lineup from an ankle injury, Brook Lopez added 24 and Brooklyn beat Boston 104-96 in the first matchup for Nets Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett against their former team.
Garnett had 11 points, his third time in double figures this season, and grabbed nine rebounds. Pierce finished with four points and seven rebounds after making a quick recovery from a broken right hand.
Of Williams, Pierce said, “He’s the head of the snake. I mean he’s one of the most important pieces of what we’re trying to do here, what we’re trying to build and trying to win a championship.”
Avery Bradley, a former player for Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, scored 22 points and ex-Sonic Jeff Green had 19 for the Celtics, who have been competitive after trading two of their most important players from their 2008 NBA title team.
Boston’s Atlantic Division-leading record fell to 10-13.
Brooklyn is 7-14.
• Goran Dragic scored 31 points and the Phoenix Suns beat the Lakers 114-108, dropping Los Angeles to 0-2 with superstar Kobe Bryant back in the lineup.
Bryant, who missed nearly eight months with a torn Achilles tendon, led the host Lakers with 20 points.
• Ex-Sonic Kevin Durant scored 30 points and Oklahoma City beat host Atlanta 101-92 for its 11th victory in 12 games.
• Kyrie Irving had 37 points and 11 assists to lead Cleveland to a 109-94 victory over visiting New York. The Knicks lost for the 11th time in 13 games.