Created: 11/25/2013 10:58 PM KSTP.com
The Pacers aren't letting anybody keep up with the Georges.
Certainly not Monday night.
George Hill took care of the early work, scoring a season-high 26 points, and Paul George closed it out by scoring 11 of his 26 points during a decisive second-half stretch that finally allowed Indiana to pull away from Minnesota 98-84 for yet another win.
"We just don't rely on one person to do all the work," Hill said. "We have multiple people who can make plays, who can play defense and things like that. We just continue to work together. We don't know who's night it's going to be. All we know is we have one common goal and that's to win the game."
The Pacers (13-1) are doing that at a record-setting pace this season.
After opening with nine straight wins, they've followed their only loss with four more wins. They're now a perfect 8-0 at home for the first time in franchise history, off to the best start in franchise history and 3-0 against the Western Conference.
Monday's win followed a familiar script. Indiana used a suffocating defense, a balanced offense and a strong bench and to put away scrappy Minnesota (8-8).
But Hill and George proved to be too much.
Hill dominated the first half, scoring 12 points as the Pacers took a 20-6 first-quarter lead. George took care of the rest, spurring the game-changing run that finally gave Indiana some breathing room in the second half.
Together, they went 19 of 29 from the field and 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. Hill finished with seven assists, five steals and three rebounds, while George had eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
"It's great, we're playing together, we're making smart plays," Lance Stephenson said after scoring 13 points. "We have so many weapons, you don't know who is going to have a big night."
Minnesota had other problems, too.
The NBA's best defensive team essentially turned the high-scoring Timberwolves into a three-man show. Kevin Love finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds, Nikola Pekovic had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Kevin Martin added 18 points. Minnesota's other five players combined for 28 points and 19 rebounds - not nearly enough to turn back the white hot Pacers.
What happened? Minnesota shot 32.6 percent from the field, was 3 of 19 on 3-pointers, had 19 turnovers and went 8½ minutes without a basket.
"We shot the ball poorly, plain and simple, and you are not going to win that many games doing that," Love said. "We knew it was going to be a physical game and we tried to be physical right back. Then they went on that one run and were able to keep their distance."
Playing short-handed didn't help.
Chase Budinger missed the game with a left knee injury, Shabazz Muhammad sat out with a sprained right ankle and Ronny Turiaf missed the game with a right elbow injury. Derrick Williams, the former No. 2 overall draft pick, also did not play as trade rumors swirled. During the game, word leaked that Minnesota agreed to send Williams to Sacramento for Luc Mbah a Moute - coach Rick Adelman said after the game that he wasn't aware of a deal.
But the bigger problem was containing the one-two punch of Hill and George.
Hill's fast start helped Indiana take the 14-point lead midway through the first quarter and forced the Timberwolves to spend the rest of the night playing catch-up.
Minnesota didn't tie the score again until Pekovic hit two free throws with 4:53 left in the third quarter. Minnesota then took the lead twice for a total of 22 seconds, the second time coming when Kevin Martin made three throws to give the Timberwolves a 66-65 edge with 3:09 left in the quarter.
That's when George kicked things into high gear.
He drove to the basket, drawing a foul and made two free throws. He came up with a steal on the ensuing possession and drove in for a highlight-reel windmill dunk to make it 69-66. When the Pacers missed their next shot, George grabbed the loose ball and made a nifty behind-the-back pass to David West, who jogged in for a layup. West closed out the 8-0 portion of the run with a 6-foot runner to give Indiana a 73-66 lead late in the third.
Then George opened the fourth quarter with two more baskets and when the 17-4 run ended, Indiana led 82-70. Minnesota never got within single digits again.
"We get stops, we get blocks, we get steals, creating easy offense on the other end and that's really the recipe to separate from other teams," George said. "We knew we needed some more energy and we needed to click more offensively. But the defensive end is where we kind of came down and really took care of business."
NOTES: Minnesota's lowest previous point total was 92 in a loss at Cleveland on Nov. 4. ... ... Former Purdue star Robbie Hummel made his first trip back to his home state as an NBA player and finished with zero points and three rebounds. ... Indiana won its fifth straight home game over the Timberwolves. ... Indiana Hoosiers coach Tom Crean and NFL sacks leader Robert Mathis both attended the game.