Notebook: Pacers 100, Rockets 91

Posted Mar 27, 2013 11:45 PM

Matt Miller, for

THE FACTS: The Indiana Pacers landed the first punch and never allowed the Houston Rockets to recover, as they led from start to finish in a 100-91 victory on Wednesday at Toyota Center.

Roy Hibbert led Indiana (45-27), which has won five of its last six games overall, with a season-high 28 points on 11-for-17 shooting and 13 rebounds, while Lance Stephenson netted 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Tyler Hansbrough finished with 16 points and eight boards for the Pacers, who reduced their magic number to clinch the Central Division to six and kept pace with the New York Knicks in the race for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Greg Smith paced Houston (39-32), which had a three-game winning streak snapped, with 18 points and a career-high 19 rebounds. James Harden added 22 points and eight assists but connected on only six of 24 shot attempts to spearhead the Rockets' dismal 38.6 percent shooting effort.

QUOTABLE: "Our defense was sensational, led by Paul George's matchup on Harden. ... Our team did a strong job on [Harden]. Roy Hibbert's rim protection was off the charts. He was only listed for three blocks, but he changed about 20 other plays that came to the rim."
-- Pacers coach Frank Vogel on how George and Hibbert influenced Houston's offensive ineptitude.

THE STAT: Indiana's starting frontcourt of George, Hansbrough and Hibbert dominated the matchup with their counterparts, Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas and Chandler Parsons. The Pacers' trio outscored and outrebounded Asik, Motiejunas and Parsons, 60-19 and 27-9, respectively.

TURNING POINT: After the Rockets scored off a pair of steals to cut Indiana's lead to 68-64 with just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Pacers responded with a 12-3 run to regain control of the contest. Indiana limited Houston to one basket while scoring on five of seven possessions during this stretch.

QUOTABLE II: "We didn't have any rhythm to our offense whatsoever, and the big thing was, when we did kind of get in the paint, they challenged our shots and we bobbled some passes. [The Pacers] were just corralling everything."
-- Houston coach Kevin McHale on Houston's stagnant performance.

HOT: The Rockets received unexpectedly heavy contributions from their backup big men Thomas Robinson and Greg Smith, who combined for 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting and 14 rebounds before halftime to help Houston move within striking distance. Patrick Beverley and Carlos Delfino also had an effective opening half as the Rockets' reserves outscored Indiana's bench 35-13.

NOT: Harden seems to always pour in points in an efficient manner due to his ability to draw so many fouls, but he has struggled with his shot over the last five games. Including Wednesday's dreadful 6-for-24 performance, Harden has nailed only 35.4 percent (28-for-79) of his field-goal attempts over his last five outings.

QUOTABLE III: "[Harden] has all the weapons to get his own shot and create for others. If you make it tough for him early on, he's going to try to make it to where he can get his own still and get his numbers, and that kind of will take you out of the game. Tonight, that's what I tried to do."
-- George on his defensive gameplan against Harden.

GOOD MOVE: The Pacers took control of the game from the outset, exploiting the Rockets' interior defense through Hansbrough and Hibbert. The pair of big men combined for 25 points on 10-for-15 (66.7 percent) shooting and 11 rebounds in the first quarter, setting the tone as Indiana scored on 15 of its first 18 possessions and built a double-digit advantage.

BAD MOVE: After Hibbert and Hansbrough worked over Houston rookie Motiejunas in the post during the opening period, it was somewhat surprising to not see McHale roll with Robinson or Smith at the beginning of the second half. Less than three-and-half minutes into the third period, Motiejunas was whistled for his fourth foul, offering McHale another opportunity to go to one of his big men off the bench. Instead, the Rockets coach stuck with the ineffective Motiejunas and watched his club's deficit grow.

NOTABLE: Vogel said before the game that he expects forward Danny Granger (patellar tendonosis in left knee) to return to Indiana's lineup in the next couple of games. Vogel added that he will ease Granger, who has missed the last 12 games and a total of 67 this season, back into the rotation in a limited reserve role. ... The Pacers also played without starting forward David West, who sat out for the sixth game in a row to rest a lower-back sprain. Indiana improved to 6-1 this season with West sidelined. ... George Hill (hip strain) and Stephenson (strained right hip flexor) returned to Indiana's lineup after missing Monday's win over the Atlanta Hawks. ... The Pacers are 3-1 on the road this season against the Southwest Division and 15-11 overall against the entire Western Conference. ... Indiana has allowed more than 100 points only once in its last 21 games. ... The Pacers are 6-1 when Hibbert leads them in scoring. ... Hibbert has posted a double-double in three consecutive games. ... Houston fell to 6-16 this season when it nets less than 100 points.

UP NEXT: For the Pacers: Thursday @ Dallas, Saturday @ Phoenix, Monday @ L.A. Clippers. For the Rockets: Friday @ Memphis, Saturday vs. L.A. Clippers, Monday vs. Orlando.