INDIANAPOLIS – Paul George and Roy Hibbert both had 20 points, and the Indiana Pacers overcame an early deficit to beat the Brooklyn Nets 97-96 Saturday night.
Lance Stephenson, left out of the All-Star game despite leading the NBA in triple-doubles, added 14 points for the Pacers (36-10), who improved the league’s best home record to 22-2. David West had 17 points and George Hill scored 10.
Shaun Livingston had a season-high 24 points for the Nets, who couldn’t hold an early seven-point lead against the Eastern Conference leaders.
Joe Johnson, an All-Star selection, spent much of the night dueling with Stephenson and scored 16 for Brooklyn, which has lost three straight since starting January with 11 wins in 12 games.
Paul Pierce scored 15 points, Deron Williams added 13 and Kevin Garnett had 12 for the Nets.
Brooklyn tied the score at 76 on Livingston’s two free throws with 10 minutes left, but Hibbert converted a three-point play and Indiana never trailed again.
Livingston pulled Brooklyn to 85-83 with 5:10 to play, but after an extended Indiana possession, Stephenson hit two free throws after being fouled by Johnson, then Hibbert slammed home a dunk.
The Nets wouldn’t go away, though. Hill hit one of two free throws with 18.6 seconds to play for a 94-90 lead before Johnson’s 3-pointer with 9 seconds left made it 94-93.
West then hit two free throws, rebounded Pierce’s missed 3 and hit one more free throw. Williams hit a 3-pointer for the final margin.
Brooklyn took advantage of a sluggish start by the Pacers to lead by seven points three times in the first quarter, the last on Johnson’s short jumper that put the Nets ahead 13-6 with 7:28 to play in the period.
But the Pacers, who missed four of their first seven shots, made five of their next nine and took their first lead on George’s 3-pointer that put Indiana up 19-18. Livingston hit two jumpers and Johnson added another to put Brooklyn back ahead 24-19, but Indiana closed the quarter on a 6-0 run to lead 25-24.
Neither team could build a lead greater than four points in the second quarter, and the lead changed hands six times, with five ties. George’s driving layup with 6 seconds to play gave the Pacers a 46-45 halftime lead.
The Pacers outscored Brooklyn 12-2 over the first 3:36 of the third quarter, building a 58-47 lead and prompting a timeout by Nets coach Jason Kidd.
Brooklyn responded with a 19-9 run to pull to 67-66. Indiana scored the next five points, but Alan Anderson hit a 3-pointer, Mason Plumlee made one of two free throws and the Nets trailed just 72-70 entering the fourth.