Streaking Pacers pounce on Bobcats

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was business as usual for the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, and that pleased coach Frank Vogel immensely.

The Pacers rolled to a 99-74 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats in a game that had all the earmarks of a typical Indiana victory.

C.J. Watson came off the bench to score 18 points, hitting four 3-pointers in a 39-point fourth-quarter explosion, and the Pacers showed why they're the NBA's stingiest defense, holding the Bobcats to just 31.3 percent shooting from the field.

"It was an Indiana Pacers-style win, with offensive balance, different guys stepping up each night, and then dominating with defense and rebounding," Vogel said. "I was very proud of the effort. C.J. Watson was obviously the star of the game tonight, but it seems like it's a different guy every night. And obviously it was just a great team effort on the defensive end."

The victory was the Pacers' fifth straight and moved them to 14-1, the best start in franchise history and the best record in the NBA.

Vogel jokingly said the Pacers deserved Thanksgiving Day off after the performance.

"I told them if they won by less than 24 they were going to have to practice tomorrow," Vogel said. "So we just barely made it. But this is a good way to go into the break."

Watson came into the game averaging just 5.5 points and was scoreless in the Pacers' previous game, a win over Minnesota on Monday. But he hit his first six 3-point attempts before finally missing, and finished 6 of 7 from 3-point land.

He hit his four fourth-quarter 3-pointers in a span of three and a half minutes to help blow the game open, as the Pacers outscored CHARLOTTE 39-22 in the final period.

"I've been struggling with my shot a little bit and I was just trying to get comfortable and find the rhythm," Watson said. "I was able to knock down the first couple and that helped my confidence, so I just kept shooting. It was important for the bench to come in and play well tonight, and tonight we were able to do our part."

The Pacers also got 15 points and 10 rebounds from guard Lance Stephenson, 14 points and 10 rebounds from center Roy Hibbert, 15 points from forward Paul George and 11 points and eight rebounds from forward David West.

"You have to account for everybody on our team, and that's a valuable commodity to have," Vogel said. "It's a neat identity for us. It's a team-first team, and we know anybody can step up."

The Pacers initially took control with a dominant first quarter, holding the Bobcats to 11 first-quarter points on 4-of-22 shooting from the field. Indiana then led 43-38 at halftime and 60-52 after three.

"It was a good collective job tonight," George said. "Everybody played their behinds off. C.J. got hot, and for us it's always about finding the guy with the hot hand. We just wanted to jump out early and have this ballgame under control from the start, and that's what we were able to do."

The Bobcats, who fell to 7-9 and lost for the sixth time in their last seven home games, finished 26 of 83 (31.3 percent) from the field and also committed 15 turnovers.

Center Al Jefferson led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds, but guards Kemba Walker (15 points) and Gerald Henderson (10 points) combined to go 6 of 32 (18.8 percent) from the field. Walker was 3 of 17, Henderson 3 of 15.

"They're right up there with the best defensive teams in the league," Henderson said. "When you play against good defensive teams like them, Miami, the Spurs, they try to keep you from getting into the middle of the lane. They have long and strong defenders on the perimeter, and then they really protect the basket well when you get there. Playing a team like that, if your jump shot's not falling, then it's going to be tough to beat them."

"We made a lot of mistakes, and every time we made a mistake they made us pay," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. "With a team like that, you can't do that. It's a learning experience."

NOTES: Both teams were perplexed by the officiating crew of Dick Bavetta, Bill Kennedy and John Goble throughout the night. ... Pacers F Paul George surpassed 3,000 points in his career. George came into the game ranked fifth in the NBA in scoring at 24.3. ... Pacers F Danny Granger (strained left calf) and Bobcats C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) remain out indefinitely. Neither has played this season. ... The Pacers' only loss of the season came at Chicago on Nov. 16. ... The Bobcats are in the middle of a three-game homestand. They'll host Milwaukee on Friday. ... The Pacers will return home to face Washington on Friday, then they'll head out for a five-game Western trip with games at the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland, Utah, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

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