Indiana wasn’t at its best Wednesday night, but the Pacers showed 15,518 fans at EnergySolutions Arena why they own the best record in the NBA.
Paul George scored nine of his 19 points in the final 10 minutes and Indiana did just enough to improve its record to 17-2 with a 95-86 victory over the Jazz.
“Not perfect,” said coach Frank Vogel, “but we’re happy to get out of here with a win.”
George was the key. He made four of his seven shots in the fourth quarter after a 3-for-13 start. His 3-pointer with 51.5 seconds gave the Pacers a 93-83 lead and sealed another victory in what has become a dream season.
“Tonight was a gutted-out win,” George said. “We weren’t able to shoot the ball as well as we wanted to. But we stuck to our principles and did a great job of that — keeping them off the free-throw line, taking care of the ball and relying on our defense to win the game.”
According to Vogel, he challenged George to take over the game in the fourth quarter.
The Pacers’ young star responded.
“I was just trying to make plays for us down the stretch,” George said. “It’s tough playing in this altitude and finding energy sometimes. It’s tough because of the altitude, but I kept trying.”
Coming off emotional games over Western Conference contenders Portland and the L.A. Clippers, Indiana looked like a team without an emotional edge against Utah.
Asked about the possibility, however, George shook his head.
“I won’t make that excuse,” he said. “They have a great tradition here and a great fan base. … We love to play in arenas and in front of crowds like this.”
While George once again led the Pacers, five teammates also scored at least 10 points.
“That’s really who we are,” Vogel said. “We’re a balanced attack. Everybody is a threat at all times. P.G. is obviously the guy who gets the most touches and is the most efficient for us. He’s the guy on top. But six guys in double figures is who we are.”
Off the bench, long-time Jazz nemesis Luis Scola contributed 14 points, including eight in eight minutes after Utah took an early 19-11 lead.
“There’s no doubt,” Vogel said. “Our starters were a little bit sluggish out of the gate and, when we got him in there, he gave us a big lift. … He’s a big reason why we think our bench is improved this year.”
A closer look
• Paul George scores nine of his 19 points in the final 10 minutes of Indiana’s 95-86 win over Utah.
• George misses 10 of his first 13 field-goal attempts, but he shoots 4 for 7 in the fourth quarter.
• George has been the Pacers’ leading scorer in 14 of their 19 games so far this season.