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Indiana Pacers best Chicago Bulls, move into first place in Central

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pacers forward Paul George attacks Bulls forward Luol Deng at the basket. George scored 21 points and held Deng to 4-18 shooting on Monday in the Pacers win.
(Courtesy photo/AP)
INDIANAPOLIS --- The Pacers and Bulls entered Monday's game as two of the top defense teams in the league, each missing a former All-Star -- forward Danny Granger for Indiana and guard Derrick Rose for Chicago -- so the expectation was a gritty, defensive battle. Instead, the teams had stretches were getting a stop seemed impossible as the Pacers won 111-101.

Forward Paul George, Indiana's lone All-Star representative this season, was the lone host to consistently shine on defense.

George played more than 44 minutes, including the entire second half, and held his matchup -- Bulls forward Luol Deng -- to 4-of-18 shooting.

"I know how much Deng means to that team," George said. "If I can make it a tough night for him I know that I'm going to help our team out."

With the win, Indiana moved into first place in the Central Division, tying the Bulls at 29-19 this season but holding a 2-0 advantage in head-to-head games.

"Give credit to the Bulls for putting up a heck of a fight and being undermanned," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "They play the right way and they share the ball."

Though Indiana prides itself on defense, the team has increased its tempo and has been scoring much more in recent games.

Indiana has averaged 105.4 points per game in its last five, up from the season-average of 92.0, which is second-to-last in the NBA.

"I'm proud of how we're growing on the offensive end," Vogel said. "When the ball is moving we've got too many weapons to be as poorly efficient as we have been."

The squad was far from inefficient on Monday.

The Pacers shot 66.7 percent in the first half, and led the Bulls by six at the break.

Though the offense began to slip a bit in the fourth quarter, Indiana still finished at 52.7 percent for the game, holding the Bulls to just 44.3 percent.

That's a bit misleading. Were it not for Deng -- either because of George's defense on him, or maybe just his stubbornness -- the Bulls would have shot 50 percent from the field.

"We understand that ultimately you have to defend teams, and we can do that for the most part," Pacers forward David West said. "We trust our defense and we're able to come down and make plays on the defensive end."

West finished with a game-high 29 points, George added 21 and point guard George Hill scored 22.

The Bulls leading scorer was Marco Belinelli, who finished with 24 points, just three shy of his career high.

The win was the Pacers 14th straight at home and was the first of back-to-back-to-back games, the only such stretch in the NBA this season. Monday's game was a make-up date from the originally scheduled Dec. 26 game, which was postponed for weather.

Despite having games for three consecutive nights, the Pacers gave extended minutes to George, West and Hill.

"This is a game we had to get," Vogel said. "It's a big game. We had to get them and do whatever we had to do to get this one and we'll worry about rest (later). Our bench is going to pretty important tomorrow night."

Box Score

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