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Late rally, by George, lifts Pacers

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For a half, it looked like it might be another one of those nights for Paul George.

The kind of quiet night where his shots don’t fall, and someone else carries the Indiana Pacers’ offense — as happened during an eight-point night last Friday against Washington.

But it wasn’t one of those nights, after all.

After scoring only seven points in the first half, George tallied 24 in the second to fuel the Pacers to a 116-92 win Tuesday night against the visiting Sacramento Kings.

One of five Indiana players in double figures, George finished with a game-high-tying 31 points, as the Pacers won for the eighth straight at home and are now 19-1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Moreover, the Pacers — who snapped a three-game win streak for the Kings — became the first team in the Eastern Conference to reach 30 wins and still boast the NBA’s best record at 30-7.

In addition, the Pacers’ 116 points were a season-high, and their coach — Frank Vogel — will coach the East All-Stars by virtue of the Pacers clinching the best record in the conference through games played Feb. 2.

“A lot of guys had a lot of energy tonight,” said George, an MVP candidate who has now scored 30 or more points five times this season. “We’re all about business, as it should be, but we’ve got to have fun.”

The Pacers did, especially in the fourth quarter, where they extended what had been a nine-point lead late in the third to a 29-point gulf with 4:46 play. George scored 10 points in the final period before Vogel cleared the bench in the final minutes.

Every Indiana player made an appearance of three-plus minutes, and all but one — Donald Sloan — scored at least one point.

David West had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Pacers. Lance Stephenson had 13 points, five rebounds and eight assists, and Roy Hibbert and C.J. Watson had 10 points each.

For the Kings (13-23), DeMarcus Cousins had game-high totals of 31 points and 13 rebounds. Rudy Gay was the only other Sacramento player in double figures with 12 points.

Sacramento shot 42 percent from the field compared to 54 percent by the Pacers. George was 10 of 18 from the field, including 4 of 7 from three-point range. The performance was a dramatic improvement from last Friday’s 2 of 14 struggle against the Wizards, which was still a 93-66 Indiana win.

And wins are that George, who is all but assured a nod for the Feb. 16 All-Star Game in New Orleans, cares about.

“We’ve got the opportunity of our life,” said George, referring to the Pacers’ bid for the NBA championship. “We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

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