George leads Pacers past Pistons 103-97

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana coach Frank Vogel couldn’t have asked for much more Monday night.

Three starters rested, no one got hurt, and the Pacers won.

Paul George scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to help Indiana beat the Detroit Pistons 103-97.

“It was a great team win,” Vogel said. “A lot of guys contributed, we got guys rest, we got the second unit a ton of work. I think we got a lot accomplished tonight.”

George made 13 of 15 free throws and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Pacers. David West scored 20 points and Leandro Barbosa and Tyler Hansbrough added 13 points each for Indiana.

Vogel could afford to rest regular starters Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and George Hill since Indiana is locked into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

West, who has scored at least 20 points in four of his past five games, said he wanted to keep playing even though Vogel gave him the option to sit out.

“Frank talked about limiting me a little bit, cutting my minutes down, but just being out there in the flow is most important to me in terms of preparing for the postseason,” West said.

West said it was important for some of the starters to play so the Pacers could maintain their momentum. Indiana is 12-2 in April.

“I just think in terms of mental preparation, just want to kind of keep the train going,” he said. “We’ve been playing some good ball. We’ve been sharing the load in terms of what we’re doing. I think it’s just a good idea to keep that rolling.”

Darren Collison, who has been replaced by Hill as the starting point guard, played with the reserves. He shot 1 fo -8 from the field and committed six turnovers in 31 minutes. He called the situation a “major adjustment.”

“Just trying to work my way in with them,” Collison said. “Trying to get accustomed with how they play. They’ve got some good players on the second unit. It can definitely help my game out. I’m just going to have to continue to move forward.”

Jeff Pendergraph got his first start as a Pacer and registered season highs of 10 points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes. He said it was good knowing he was going to get serious playing time.

“Just like anything, if you’re more calm, more relaxed knowing that you’re going to play regardless of if you make a mistake, long as you’re playing hard it’s all right,” he said. “To actually have an opportunity to play hard through your mistakes — I messed up a bunch tonight, but I was playing my butt off and Coach let me keep playing.”

Greg Monroe scored 18 points, Brandon Knight had 16 and Tayshaun Prince added 14 for the Pistons.

Detroit held the Pacers to 38 percent shooting, but Indiana forced 18 turnovers and outrebounded the Pistons 56-42. Indiana outscored the Pistons 29-13 from the free-throw line.

“We had great opportunities, but all those extra possessions add up, and it puts you in a situation to make a missed game,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. “Unfortunately, tonight we missed.”

A three-point play by Hansbrough gave the Pacers an 87-84 lead in the fourth quarter. George made two free throws, then showed why he was in the slam-dunk contest. He took off from the right side of the paint, pulled the ball back and jammed it through with his right hand to give the Pacers a 91-84 lead with 5:23 to play.

A 3-pointer and a runner by Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva cut Indiana’s lead to 91-89.

Detroit could have taken the lead in the final minute, but Monroe missed two free throws. Hansbrough was fouled on a putback attempt on the other end, and he made both free throws to give Indiana a 99-96 lead with 26.5 seconds to play.

Monroe was fouled on a drive with 20.6 seconds left. He made the first free throw and missed the second, and George got the rebound. George made two free throws with 19.4 seconds to play to give the Pacers a 101-97 lead. George made two more free throws with 9.6 seconds left.

Indiana led 54-52 at halftime behind 13 points by George.

Pendergraph dunked on consecutive possessions to give Indiana a 64-58 lead early in the third quarter. Later, on a fast break, Hansbrough dribbled up the middle of the court like a point guard and found Barbosa for a layup to give Indiana a 73-67 lead. A three-point play by Barbosa moments later pushed the lead to nine.

Consecutive 3s by Prince and Knight, and a goaltending violation by the Pacers on a shot by Prince in close cut Indiana’s lead to 76-75 at the end of the third quarter.

George’s strong fourth quarter helped the Pacers close the game out. He shot 2-for-4 from the field and made all eight of his free throws in the final 12 minutes. It was another step towards what Indiana expects to be a successful postseason run.

“Everybody pitched in as we should,” West said. “We must compete every night, no matter who we are playing. This is the way we want to head into the playoffs.”

Notes: Indiana C Kyrylo Fesenko, who had played 11 minutes all season since being picked up as a free agent at midseason, had four points in 6 minutes. … Monroe was issued a technical foul in the third quarter. … Detroit F Jonas Jerebko didn’t play for the second straight game. The Pistons are taking a closer look at Austin Daye. … Indiana’s Dahntay Jones made his third start of the season.

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