INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Pacers responded to Friday night’s challenge like a champion.
After taking two big hits this week — losing at home and dropping back-to-back games for the first time all season — Indiana struck back by playing perhaps its most complete game of the season. Paul George finished with 24 points and nine rebounds, Lance Stephenson added 16 points and six assists, and the defense shut down the Houston Rockets in a 114-81 rout.
“This team doesn’t like losing,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We talked about playing mad for four quarters.”
The Pacers, who lost to Detroit and Miami earlier in the week, have the best record in the Eastern Conference (21-5) and already have defeated three of the West’s top teams — the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Houston.
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Rockets center Dwight Howard had 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
Houston (17-10) entered the game second in scoring average and third in field-goal percentage, but the Pacers held it to 38.1 percent and a season low in points.
“They played harder than we did,” Howard said
Indiana shot 53.1 percent.
“It’s a good feeling because when we’re at our best, we feel like we’re unstoppable,” George said.
Indiana fans gave former All-Star Danny Granger a standing ovation when he made his season debut in the first quarter and chanted his name when he finally made his first basket, a three-pointer, early in the fourth.
Granger missed all but five games last season because of a left-knee injury and he was sidelined this season by a strained left calf.
Pondexter has surgery
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis Grizzlies swingman Quincy Pondexter, a former Washington Husky, had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot that has him sidelined indefinitely.
The Grizzlies announced Pondexter, 25, had the surgery Friday in Memphis.
Pondexter hurt his foot Dec. 7 in a loss to Golden State. He was averaging 6.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 18 minutes this season after signing a four-year contract extension Oct. 31.
• Three games went into overtime.
Evan Turner made a driving basket at the OT buzzer and scored 29 points to lead the host Philadelphia 76ers to a 121-120 victory over Brooklyn.
Kyrie Irving made four free throws in the final 21.5 seconds of overtime and finished with 39 points despite battling a flu bug, leading Cleveland to a 114-111 victory over visiting Milwaukee.
Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan scored the final points with 1:11 left in overtime as the Raptors beat the host Dallas Mavericks 109-108. Dallas missed its last four shots.
• Kemba Walker scored 34 points as visiting Charlotte rallied for a 116-106 victory over Detroit.
• Chris Bosh scored 25 points as the host Miami Heat beat Sacramento 122-103.
• Former Phoenix Sun Richard Dumas was among 151 people arrested in a preholiday roundup of theft suspects sought in multiple cases in Arizona.
The U.S. Marshals Service said Dumas, 44, who works with a janitorial service, was arrested in Litchfield Park on a warrant charging him with eight counts of organized retail theft totaling about $800.