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Pacers 100, Rockets 91

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HOUSTON (AP) - Roy Hibbert scored a season-high 28 points against the Houston Rockets.

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After the game, the 7-foot-2 center was much more interested in talking about Indiana's defense than his big offensive night.

Lance Stephenson added a season-high 21 points and Hibbert had 13 rebounds to lead the Pacers to a 100-91 victory over the Rockets on Wednesday night.

``From Day 1 I've said I wanted to be a defensive team,'' said Hibbert, who also had three blocks. ``It's my job to go out there and clog the paint, get deflections and make sure they shoot a low percentage in the paint.''

Pacers coach Frank Vogel raved about the defense of his team, which entered the game allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA.

``Our defense was sensational led by Paul George's matchup on James Harden, and Roy Hibbert's rim protection was off the charts,'' Vogel said. ``He was only listed for three blocks, but he changed about 20 other plays that came to the rim. They weren't even shooting it once they got there and were just thinking pass.''

Houston coach Kevin McHale said the Pacers did a good job of slowing down his offense.

``We didn't have any rhythm to our offense whatsoever,'' McHale said. ``And the big thing was, when we did get in the paint, they challenged our shots and we bobbled some passes. They were just corralling everything.''

The Pacers never trailed and led by as many as 19 points. Houston made several runs, once cutting the lead to four points, but Indiana answered each time to hold on for the victory.

The Central Division-leading Pacers weren't back to full strength but they certainly got a boost from the returns of Stephenson, who missed Indiana's last game with a strained right hip flexor, and George Hill, out last game with a strained left groin.

The Pacers were still missing Danny Granger, who has sat out the majority of the season with patellar tendinitis in his left knee, and David West, who sat out his sixth straight game with a lower back sprain.

``This was Roy Hibbert's best overall game,'' Vogel said. ``And with David West out, we needed him to score more and be more of a post presence and he was terrific on the offensive end as well.''

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Houston, which is seventh in the Western conference. The Rockets were led by Harden's 22 points and eight assists.

``It was a combination of things,'' Harden said of falling behind early. ``We know they are a pretty good defensive team, but we didn't make shots and that hurt us from the beginning of the game.''

The Pacers led by 11 entering the fourth but managed just two points in the first four minutes of the quarter to allow Houston to get within 84-79. Indiana scored the next six points, with four of them coming on free throws to make it 90-79.

Harden connected on a 3-pointer before sinking two free throws to get Houston within eight with about three minutes left. This time it was Paul George responded, knocking down a 3-pointer seconds later to extend the lead.

George and Tyler Hansbrough added 16 points apiece for Indiana. Hill had two points, five assists and four rebounds.

Greg Smith had 18 points and a career-high 19 rebounds for Houston.

Indiana was up by 10 early in third before Houston used an 8-2 run to cut the lead to 68-64 at the seven-minute mark. Harden had a steal and a dunk before Lin hit an off-balance layup and the ensuing free throw after a foul by Hill.

The Pacers ended the rally with a 7-1 spurt which pushed to lead back to 10 with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. Chandler Parsons had an alley-oop dunk on a pass from Harden after that, but George scored five quick points for Indiana to make it 80-67.

Indiana looked good from the start on Wednesday night as the team jumped out to a 10-2 lead and used another 10-2 run, that featured three dunks in less than a minute later in the quarter, to push the lead to 25-9.

They were up 35-19 entering the second quarter after a first period where they shot 60.9 percent. Houston missed 15 shots in the first quarter and had four turnovers.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Orlando Johnson extended Indiana's advantage to 48-29 eight minutes before halftime. The Pacers hot-shooting cooled down after that and the Rockets finally discovered some offense. Houston used a 13-2 run to get within 50-42 with five minutes left in the first half. Patrick Beverley started that spurt with a jump shot and scored seven of the Rockets points as they closed the gap.

A layup by Smith got Houston within six points with 2 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter, but a three-point play by Stephenson to end the quarter left Indiana up 58-49 at halftime.

Wednesday's game was much like Houston's trip to Indianapolis in January, when the Pacers raced out to a 31-18 lead after one quarter in a 105-95 win.

NOTES: It was Hibbert's fourth straight game with a double-double. ... Harden made just six of 24 shots. ... George had three steals.

AP NEWS
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