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Lance Stephenson scored a career-high 28 points, Paul George added 25, and the Indiana Pacers beat the New York Knicks 117-89 on Thursday night.
The Pacers have won nine straight at home, three in a row overall and still have the NBA’s best record and the league’s top home record (20-1). Indiana leads idle Miami by four games in the chase for the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Carmelo Anthony had 18 of his 28 points in the first quarter to lead New York. J.R. Smith, who was benched in two of the previous four games, played 28 minutes and scored 12 points. The Knicks have lost two straight after winning five in a row.
Indiana took control with an 11-1 run midway through the second quarter, then closed the first half on a 16-7 run to make it 63-48. New York never challenged again.
The Pacers, the league’s best defensive team, had one of its best offensive games of the season, too. It shot 50 percent from the field, was 10 of 23 on 3-pointers, finished with a season-low five turnovers and season best point total for the second straight game. The Pacers beat Sacramento 116-92 on Tuesday.
Thursday’s game was supposed to be one of this week’s marquee NBA matchups – a rematch of last spring’s conference semifinals.
New York came into the game as one of the league’s hottest teams, and when Anthony opened the game with nine points in less than six minutes it looked like the hot streak would continue. Instead, Indiana stormed back.
An 11-4 spurt wiped out New York’s early eight-point lead and gave the Pacers a 28-26 advantage late in the first quarter. Anthony bailed out New York with a buzzer-beating 3 to give the Knicks a 31-30 lead at the end of one.
After that, New York never had a chance.
Indiana took charge with the first second-quarter run and pulled away with the second, finishing with a season best 63 first-half points — surpassing the 59 points they had in the first half Tuesday against the Kings.
Indiana didn’t stop.
George scored 10 points in a 15-8 run to open the third quarter that gave Indiana a commanding 78-56 lead. The Knicks couldn’t get closer than 16 the rest of the night.
Tyson Chandler had 13 points and Raymond Felton added 12 for the Knicks, who lost Kenyon Martin in the second quarter and Amar’e Stoudemire in the third quarter — both with sprained left ankles.
Indiana had six players in double figures and has won four straight over New York at home.