INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Pacers ended their six-game losing streak in resounding fashion.
Mike Dunleavy scored 30 points to help the Pacers beat the Nets 124-92 on Friday night. It was Indiana’s second-best scoring effort of the season, behind its NBA season-high, 144-point outburst Nov. 9 against Denver.
The Pacers finally looked like the team that got off to a strong start and had fans thinking about the playoffs after a four-year absence.
“It was no fun losing six in a row,” Dunleavy said. “We know that we can win, we know that we have to come out strong, move the ball, play ‘D’ and find a way to win. We want to be aggressive and make better decisions on all occasions. I think tonight is the beginning and we just need to work, work, work.”
Dunleavy shot 12 for 16 from the field and made 6-of-7 3-pointers in his first game with 30 or more points in more than two months. He helped the Pacers post their largest margin of victory this season.
“I thought we moved the ball well, we shared it, guys made shots and it seemed like we were in a really good flow,” he said. “That’s the difference and hopefully we can do that more often.”
Roy Hibbert scored 20 points, Danny Granger had 18 and rookie Paul George added 15 for the Pacers, who shot 63 percent overall and made 12-of-22 3-pointers.
Brook Lopez led the Nets with 28 points. New Jersey had won four of its past five games, but allowed its highest point total of the season. Nets coach Avery Johnson was disappointed in the effort, particularly with their inability to guard Indiana’s perimeter shooters.
“Hopefully, when we keep getting our faces smashed in, we’ll get it,” he said. “You get your face smashed in enough, sometime, you’re going to have to learn to fight back. It’s the growing pains of this year.”
Hibbert bounced back after scoring just four points in 15 minutes against Orlando on Wednesday. Pacers coach Jim O’Brien had reduced his role in recent weeks in favor of a smaller lineup.
“It felt nice being out there again,” Hibbert said. “I was just wanting to be aggressive, and hopefully I can put some games together and help this team win.”
Granger said he thought it was important to help Hibbert get his offensive game established early.
“I was just trying to pass up shots just so I could get Roy going,” Granger, the team’s leading scorer, said. “We really focused on getting him going because he’s so important to what we try to do here.”
Dunleavy scored 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting in the first half, and Indiana shot 62 percent before the break to take a 68-54 lead.
“When Mike is shooting like that, he’s probably the best guy that we have that moves, so he’s pretty much unguardable,” Granger said.
The Pacers tied for their highest-scoring first half of the season.
“I can’t think of a game this year where we’ve given up 60 points in a half,” Johnson said.
New Jersey shot 53 percent in the first half, but the Pacers committed only two turnovers and outrebounded the Nets to negate Lopez’s 18-point effort.
Indiana opened the second half with a 12-6 surge to take an 80-60 lead, and the rout was on. The Pacers reached 100 points on a free throw by James Posey with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
“Take your hats off to Indiana,” Johnson said. “They came out like a desperate team ready to play, and we just continued our poor road play.”
NOTES: Stephen Graham, a former Pacer, started for the Nets and had four points in 26 minutes. … Indiana F Tyler Hansbrough sat out with pneumonia after 10 straight starts. Josh McRoberts started in his place after being inactive the previous three games and had seven points and five assists. … Indiana G Brandon Rush sat out with a sprained right ankle. … Nets G Jordan Farmar had back spasms just before tip-off and did not play.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)