Paul George scored seven points in a 13-0 fourth-quarter run and finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds Thursday night to lead the Indiana Pacers to an 81-76 victory over the New York Knicks, who were without the suspended Carmelo Anthony.
The Pacers (22-14) have won 12 of 15 and have swept the other two Eastern Conference division leaders — Miami and the Knicks — this week.
New York (23-12) was led by J.R. Smith with 25 points and Tyson Chandler had 12 points and 15 rebounds, but they clearly missed Anthony’s presence. The NBA’s second-leading scorer was banned by the league for Monday’s postgame confrontation with Boston’s Kevin Garnett.
Without Anthony, one of the league’s highest-scoring and best shooting teams, hardly resembled itself. New York finished with a season-low point total, nine fewer than its previous low, and shot just 34.8 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range.
But Smith kept the Knicks close for three quarters.
After falling behind 49-38 early in the third quarter, Smith scored eight points during a 13-3 run that got the Knicks to 52-51. And he closed the quarter by scoring the last four points to give the Knicks a 60-58 lead.
That’s when George poured it on.
He drove in for a layup, then stole the ball and drove in for a dunk to tie the score at 62. After Gerald Green’s 3-pointer broke the tie and Ian Mahinmi hit a 20-foot jumper, George came up with another steal and layup. Mahinmi finished the run with a dunk that gave Indiana a 71-62 lead with just under 5 minutes to play.
The Pacers never trailed again, and the Knicks never seriously challenged again.
Indiana won despite playing without the still injured Danny Granger, losing Roy Hibbert twice with a back injury and with George Hill playing with bronchitis.
New York lost Marcus Camby in the second half after he re-injured his left foot, and Amare Stoudemire played 21 minutes, 31 seconds after doctors told coach Mike Woodson to limit his playing time. Stoudemire is trying to work his way back from surgery on his left knee.
But it was a game that was definitely played at the Pacers tempo.
After New York jumped to an 11-4 lead in the first 5 1/2 minutes, the Knicks managed only three points the rest of the quarter. Indiana led 16-14 after one.
Things weren’t much better the second quarter. After New York closed to 24-23 with 6:27 to go, the Pacers extended the lead to 39-31. Jason Kidd’s 3-pointer with 9.5 seconds left, New York’s first 3 of the game, made cut the deficit to 39-34 at the half.