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Pacers marred, suffer 1st home loss

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INDIANAPOLIS — For the second straight game, Paul George didn’t resemble an MVP candidate.

Only this time, the Indiana Pacers couldn’t make up the difference.

The result was their first home loss of the season.

Josh Smith scored a game-high 30 points, and Brandon Jennings added 18 to lead the Detroit Pistons to a 101-96 win Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The victory was Detroit’s first on Indiana’s home floor in the past 11 games. And it was largely the product of the Piston’s control of the boards, Smith’s production and a general lack of firepower from the Pacers’ starting five.

Lance Stephenson scored a career-high 23 points for the Pacers, and Luis Scola had a season-high 18 off the bench. George, the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer heading in, finished with 17 but was a miserable 4 of 14 from the field.

George’s tough night follows a 10-point outing in last Friday’s 99-94 win against visiting Charlotte. But unlike that game, the Pacers didn’t get enough from their other offensive sources in this one to compensate.

With 14 points, David West was the only other Indiana player in double figures. George Hill had seven points, and Roy Hibbert finished with five. Both players average double figures on the season.

Offensively, both teams shot 43 percent from the floor. But the Pistons (12-14) dominated the boards 55-40, including 20 offensive rebounds, and outscored the Pacers in the paint 44-38.

Moreover, the Pacers never led and needed strong fourth-quarter performances by Scola and Stephenson just to stay close. The Pacers closed to within two, 96-94, with 1:17 to play on a three-pointer by Stephenson but got no closer.

Scola scored 12 points in the final period, making 6 of 8 shots in just more than eight minutes. Stephenson tallied seven in the quarter, playing just more than nine minutes. George, who played almost the entire period, had four points on 1-of-5 shooting.

West, Hibbert and Hill played a combined 23 minutes in the final period and did not score.

For Detroit, Greg Monroe was the only other player in double figures with 13 points. He also had a game-high 12 rebounds.

Despite the loss, the Pacers — who are now 11-1 at home — still have the best record in the Eastern Conference and have a commanding nine-game lead on the second-place Pistons in the Central Division.

Indiana’s next game is Wednesday at Miami. The Pacers, who have lost two of their past four games, beat the defending NBA champion Heat 90-84 on Dec. 10 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers’ next home game is Friday against the Houston Rockets.

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