By David Jimenez
The Associated Press
Paul George and Indiana Pacers went on an offensive surge in the third quarter to sink the Dallas Mavericks.
However, all Pacers coach Frank Vogel could talk about was his top-ranked defense.
George had 24 points and eight rebounds and the Pacers broke open a close game in the third quarter to beat the Mavericks 103-78 on Thursday night.
With the game tied at half, the Pacers outscored the Mavericks 34-17 in the third. George had eight points in a 20-5 run to open the second half.
Vogel said his team’s defense allowed Indiana to pull away in the second half.
“Our defensive effort keeps getting better and better,” Vogel said. “I’m very impressed with how dialed in our guys are and how disciplined they’re playing on the defensive end.”
The Central Division-leading Pacers won their fourth straight and have a half-game lead for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana is 2-0 on a four-game Western Conference trip. The Pacers beat the Houston Rockets 100-91 on Wednesday night.
“It was great win,” George said. “For us to come out and match their same intensity was huge, especially on their floor.”
Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points for Dallas, which remained 1½ games behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“Having a dud like this on our home floor is definitely disheartening,” Dallas center Elton Brand said.
Nowitzki and five of his teammates have grown out beards since early February and vowed not to shave until the Mavericks (35-37) got back to .500.
Those unshaven Mavericks will have to put their razors away for at least a few more days as Indiana denied Dallas a chance to even its record for the first time since Dec. 12.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert didn’t want the Mavericks to pull out the clippers just yet.
“We heard something about them wanting to shave or doing something like that,” Hibbert said. “We wanted to shut that (stuff) down to begin with. They wanted to get to .500 so they gave us their best effort in the first half. Whatever gimmick they need to rally themselves, that’s fine.”
Hibbert had 16 points and 11 rebounds one night after scoring a season-high 28 against Houston, and Tyler Hansbrough added 13 points and nine rebounds off the bench for Indiana, which announced before the game that former All-Star forward Danny Granger will have season-ending left knee surgery.
David West scored seven points in his return for the Pacers after missing six games with a lower back strain.
The Pacers outrebounded the Mavericks 55-34 and scored 15 second chance points. Dallas suffered its 11th loss of 20 points or more this season.
“It was a wipeout for us as far as the rebounding,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “That’s been a challenge for us.”
George Hill hit a 3-pointer to start the second half and break a 41-all halftime tie.
George hit a 21-footer to push Indiana’s lead to 49-42. Indiana closed the 20-5 run with a couple of layups from Hill and a jumper from Ian Mahinmi to make it 61-46 midway through the third.
George scored 13 points in the third. He finished 10 of 17 from the field and had six assists and three steals.
Mahinmi closed the third with a dunk off a pass from Orlando Johnson as the Pacers outscored the Mavericks 34-17 in the third.
Vince Carter had 14 points and Darren Collison added 10 or Dallas. The Mavericks shot 38.6 percent (32 of 83) against the NBA’s top-scoring defense.
Dallas, which got no closer than 10 points in the fourth, dropped to 3-2 on its six-game homestand. The Mavericks close out their longest home stay of the season Saturday against the Chicago Bulls, who ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak Wednesday night.