CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel is feeling pretty good about his team entering the All-Star break and he's not afraid to admit it.
The Pacers have won four straight, improving to 21-12 overall after Wednesday night's 102-88 win over the woeful Charlotte Bobcats, to give them some momentum heading into the second half of the season.
``Our team has no ceiling,' Vogel said. ``I've said that from Day 1. I know we can play with the best in the league.
``We've just got to do it on a consistent enough basis to earn one of the league's best records. We are near the top. We want to be at the top. We've got great talent at every position. We're not a mega-star team but we've got stars on our team.'
Tyler Hansbrough is one of those guys.
Hansbrough came off the bench to score a season-high 22 points along with nine rebounds as the Pacers defeated the Bobcats for the ninth straight time, including the second time this week.
This game was much closer than the 35-point rout Sunday in Indianapolis - at least for three quarters. The Pacers led by 10 after the third, but began to pull away in the fourth and led by as many as 21 points and were never really threatened.
Danny Granger had 12 points and A.J. Price, Paul George, Dahntay Jones and Darren Collison also scored in double figures. Lou Amundson had a season-high 11 rebounds as the Pacers remained firmly entrenched in second place in the Central Division.
Indiana's reserves played well, scoring 55 points in extended playing time.
``Our depth is big for us,' Hansbrough said. ``Obviously when you add David West and George Hill it makes a difference to get some veteran guys in there that have some experience. It's good you know to have some guys that can come off the bench that can do some work. I feel like our second unit, when we get in there, we're not taking anything away. We're just trying to build the lead.'
Hansbrough, who played in college up the road in Chapel Hill, received a lukewarm ovation from the crowd - Duke fans were obviously in attendance - when he entered the game midway through the first quarter.
He provided some instant offense.
Unlike Sunday when the Pacers jumped out to a 21-2 lead against the Bobcats, the Pacers had a bit of a struggle coming out of the gates falling behind 19-10 but quickly took control. The Pacers clawed back even and then went on a 12-2 run to close the first half and take a 50-42 lead behind 12 points from Hansbrough, who showed the same intensity he did when he played with the Tar Heels.
``You know it's definitely different,' Hansbrough said of the NBA game. ``The sets and the defense and the game and the style are different. (But) I keep the energy like I did in college and try to go out there and attack.'
Corey Maggette scored 20 points and D.J. Augustin had 15 for the Bobcats, who've lost 18 of their last 19 games.
The Bobcats got an encouraging game from rookie center Bismack Biyombo, who finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.
``He's coming,' coach Paul Silas said of Biyombo, the seventh overall pick in the draft. ``He's learning and he's getting there. He learned how to block shots. He works on his offense just about every day, so that's going to come. I thought he played well tonight.'
But the Pacers were simply too much for Charlotte - again.
In what's been a repetitive theme this season for the Bobcats, they were manhandled on the boards and outscored in the paint. The Pacers outrebounded the Bobcats 35-18 in the second half.
``That's the ball game right there,' Silas said.
``Our bench carried us through some of the first half and obviously in the second half they broke the game open and we just rolled with them,' Vogel said. ``I'm pleased with how much we shared the ball.'
It didn't hurt that the Pacers made 27 of their first 30 free-throw attempts.
The Bobcats enter the All-Star break with a 4-28 record, by far the worst in the NBA. If there's some consolation, they expect to get Gerald Henderson back next week. Henderson has sat out the last three weeks with a strained hamstring.
``We definitely need this break,' Augustin said. ``In the NBA you play so many games you have to move on. Hopefully after this break we come back with some more energy and get some more wins.'
NOTES: The Pacers have won their last four games against the Bobcats by a combined 74 points. ... Panthers Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith took in the game courtside.
The Associated Press News Service
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