Paul George had 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Indiana Pacers to an 81-76 victory over the New York Knicks, who played without the suspended Carmelo Anthony, the team’s top scorer.
“We’re improving with every game,” George said in a televised interview. “Our defense is holding up.”
The Knicks, who fell to 23-12 with their second straight defeat, lead the five-team Eastern Conference Atlantic Division by three games from the Brooklyn Nets.
Anthony was suspended for one game by the National Basketball Association for repeatedly confronting Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics after a Jan. 7 defeat at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Pacers hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Chicago Bulls atop the Eastern Conference’s five-team Central Division.
The Knicks rallied from a 39-34 halftime deficit to lead 60-58 after the third quarter before being outscored in the fourth quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, where the Pacers are 14-3.
The Pacers are playing without Danny Granger Jr., the team’s leading scorer for the past five seasons. Granger is rehabbing from a procedure for left patellar tendinosis, which affects the tendon that attaches the kneecap to the shinbone.
“Our offense is going to come around especially when Danny comes back,” George said.
Ian Mahinmi came off the bench to score 13 points for the Pacers, who improved to 22-14.
Reserve J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 25 points and Tyson Chandler added 12 points and 15 rebounds.