INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George continues to pour it on opponents, and Monta Ellis appears to be settling into his new role with the Pacers.
George scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Ellis had his best game yet for Indiana and the Pacers held off the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-103 at home Friday night.
George has 25 or more points in six straight games. He showed glimpses of his return to form in the preseason after working his way back from a broken leg in August 2014. But since the regular season began, George is asserting himself as one of the league’s better players.
“Since training camp, this is the Paul George I expected to see coming back,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s my job to put him in position to have his best season ever and he’s started off (looking) to have that type of year.”
Through a stretch in which the Pacers have won six of seven games, George has been the leader for Indiana. He’s averaging 27.2 points per game in November and has recorded four double-doubles in that seven-game stretch.
But on Friday, he needed some help from Ellis.
Entering the fourth quarter with 25 of his 29 points, George cooled off during a 16-minute stretch that saw the Pacers nearly blow a 27-point lead.
Ellis gave the Pacers an 87-60 lead with 4 minutes left in the third quarter, but Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine led the Timberwolves on a 40-14 run that stunned the Indiana crowd. Wiggins’ basket with 1:18 left pulled Minnesota within 101-100.
Ellis scored on a layup to give the Pacers breathing room with 41.3 seconds left, then blocked Andre Miller’s shot on a drive through the line. CJ Miles hit a free throw and George made two from the line for a 106-100 lead that put this one out of reach.
George was not pleased with the way the team handled its biggest lead of the season.
“We can’t take teams lightly. Giving up 30 points in the fourth (quarter) is unacceptable,” George said. “We’ve got to give a better effort for a full 48 (minutes).”
Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell liked his team’s effort in the comeback, but acknowledged the effort needed to dig out of a 27-point hole left the Wolves empty at the end.
“The problem is when you get down like that, you have to play perfect,” Mitchell said. “We’re learning how to play, we’re learning how to fight through pain.”
LaVine and Wiggins both finished with 26 points. Karl-Anthony Towns, the league’s seventh-best rebounder, had 12 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota. Nemanja Bjelica and Shabazz Muhammad each had 10 points.
Ian Mahinmi added 12 points and nine rebounds and Glenn Robinson III scored 11 points and had five rebounds off the bench for Indiana.
Entering Friday’s game, Indiana had the fourth-best defense in allowing 95.3 points per game. They were fourth in turnovers forced (17.3) and fifth in steals (9.3) and had allowed 90.5 points per game in their previous six games.
THREE FOR ALL
After his two 3-pointers Friday night, George Hill only needs five more this season to move into eighth career in franchise history in just his fifth season with Indiana. Entering Friday’s game against Minnesota, he was fourth in the league with 22 made from behind the arc.
Pacers rookie Myles Turner will be out four weeks with a chip fracture in his left thumb sustained during the first half of a win Wednesday night against Boston. In eight games, Turner is averaging 6.1 points and 2.9 rebounds off the bench.
RUNNIN’ WITHOUT RICKY
For the second time in three games, Minnesota played without point guard Ricky Rubio, who has struggled with injuries during his career. He has missed action this year with a mild left hamstring strain. In the six games he’s played this year, he’s averaging nine assists.
Pacers: The Pacers are 6-1 in their last seven games since starting the season 0-3. … George is averaging 27.2 points per game in November. … For the 7th time this season, the Pacers held an opponent to fewer than 100 points.
Timberwolves: The loss was the third straight for Minnesota after starting the season 4-2.
Indiana plays at Chicago on Monday night.
Minnesota hosts Memphis on Sunday.
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