(The Sports XChange) - When the Indiana Pacers lost at San Antonio in December, Monta Ellis and Paul George scored a combined 13 points on 4 of 24 field-goal shooting, helping the Spurs pull away to a comfortable 14-point victory.
Monday night’s rematch in Bankers Life Fieldhouse was quite a different production for Ellis and George, who combined for 49 points on 15 of 33 shooting in Indiana’s 99-91 victory.
Ellis scored 26 points, including 21 in the second half, and George added 23, including two free throws with 15.7 seconds remaining to give Indiana (34-30) a 97-91 lead,
The Spurs (53-10) had an eight-game winning streak snapped and were without coach Gregg Popovich, who was home with an ailing family member.
“We were dialed in and more focused this time,” said George, who was 1 of 14 in the game in San Antonio. “I knew I needed a better effort. This was one of our best games overall. We did a great job for four quarters against a great team.”
Ellis, who carried the Pacers during the second half each time San Antonio closed the gap, said Indiana’s defense won the game.
“We got stops,” Ellis said. “On the other end, my teammates found me when I was open. That was a great team, and this was a big win for us. Everybody refreshed their minds at the All-Star break, and everybody got locked in. We have had some tough losses, but we’ve stayed together.”
Rodney Stuckey scored 12 for Indiana, and Ian Mahinmi had 11 points and nine rebounds. The Pacers shot 41 percent from the field (32 of 78) and outscored the Spurs 28-19 from the free-throw line.
Forwards Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge each scored 23 for San Antonio, and Patty Mills came off the bench for 17. The Spurs shot a season-low 35.4 percent (34 of 96).
“You have to feel good about beating the Spurs,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “That’s a heck of a team. The last six quarters, we have worked extremely hard on the defensive end. For the most part, we were guarding at a high level.”
San Antonio scored the first six points of the third quarter and continued to apply the pressure, but two George free throws and an Ellis steal and dunk gave Indiana a 71-59 lead with 44 seconds left in the period. The Spurs got a David West putback at the buzzer to pull to within 73-62 with 12 minutes remaining.
“It was a rough night shooting for us,” said assistant coach Ettore Messina, who coached the Spurs in Popovich’s absence. “We were getting food looks, but it just happens sometimes. We were just not as sharp as we could have been.”
The Spurs scored the first two field goals of the fourth quarter to slice the deficit to 73-66, but Indiana answered with a 9-0 run that included two Jordan Hill baskets, a Solomon Hill 3-pointer and two Myles Turner free throws for an 82-66 lead with 9:33 remaining.
“We missed a lot of shots, obviously,” Mills said. “The mistakes we made tonight are mistakes we don’t normally make. In the second half, we gave ourselves a chance, but we just couldn’t come through down the stretch. Ellis hit some big shots. It seems like he does that against us no matter who he is playing for.”
In the first half, Indiana took advantage of the Spurs’ 4-of-24 start from the field to lead 45-32 through 24 minutes. San Antonio led 4-0, then Indiana countered with a 14-0 run.
The Spurs made only 13 of 50 first-half field-goal attempts (26 percent), including 1 of 14 from 3-point range. Leonard was 5 of 11 in the opening half, but his teammates were a collective 8 of 39. Leonard finished the half with 11 points.
Indiana shot only 40.5 percent (15 of 37) but was 11 of 13 from the free-throw line while the Spurs were 5 of 6. Stuckey came off the bench to lead the Pacers with 12 first-half points.