INDIANAPOLIS -- Darren Collison might want to get well soon.
While he has been recovering from a sore groin, backup point guard George Hill has proven capable as a starter. Hill had 15 points and seven assists to help the Indiana Pacers clinch a playoff spot by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-83 Friday night.
Indiana has won all three games Hill has started. He has averaged 16.7 points and 5.3 assists in a win over Toronto and two victories over Cleveland.
Hill scored 10 points in the second quarter on Friday, helping the Pacers rally from a 14-point deficit. He played as more of a pure point guard in the third quarter with no points, four assists and no turnovers.
"Sometimes, it might not be your time to take the shots and be aggressive," Hill said. "In the second quarter, even playing with D.G. (Danny Granger) out there, he saw that I had the mismatch at the time and I had it going a little bit and we were running a lot of things for me, and then in the third quarter, we had D.G. and David West going."
Indiana (37-22) matched its win total from last season. The Pacers are in third place in the Eastern Conference standings and are trying to clinch home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "Nothing has changed for us. We felt for a while we would be in the playoffs, but until we get home-court advantage, there is work to be done."
"The second half, we had a lot of open shots and we didn't convert on then," Antawn Jamison, who scored 12 points for the Cavaliers, said. "We had too many turnovers. We weren't aggressive enough in the second half. We did a bad job of playing 48 minutes."
The Pacers, best known for their defense, scored more than 100 points for the eighth time in nine games. Indiana won the season series 3-1.
Indiana trailed 36-23 in the second quarter, but Hill scored five points during a 9-0 run to tighten the game. Cleveland led 43-41 at halftime.
"They have a bunch of guys, D-League players, playing for contracts," Hibbert said. "They played hard. We took the punch and then we gave it back to them."
A basket by Hibbert tied the game at 43 less than a minute into the third quarter, and a basket by West gave Indiana a 45-43 lead. A dunk by Granger gave Indiana a 53-45 edge. Cleveland made just 1 of its first 11 shots in the second half before calling a timeout.
It didn't help. A dunk by Dahntay Jones increased Indiana's lead to 66-50, and the Pacers led 75-56 at the end of the quarter. Indiana outscored Cleveland 34-13 in the period as the Cavaliers shot 3 for 18.
"I challenged my guys to ramp up their defense because we've had some poor halves the last couple games," Vogel said. "They defended at a high level tonight. Offensively, we struggled in the first half, but we said all year offense will come and go, but defense will carry us."
Indiana led by at least 13 points the entire fourth quarter.
"Even though we might not have a good quarter or good half, we still think we have a great enough team to come back in and finish off strong," Hill said. "You're going to have your up and down games and up and down quarters. We've just got to keep pounding that rock and believing in each other."
The solid second half put the Pacers on track to reach their goal. Indiana remained two games ahead of Atlanta for the No. 3 position in the East.
"Nothing against Cleveland, but we're getting ready for something bigger," Hibbert said. "You have to come out better, but we finished the right way."
Anderson Varejao (right wrist fracture), Daniel Gibson (torn tendon, left foot/ankle), Kyrie Irving (contused/sprained right shoulder) and Semih Erden (right ankle sprain) missed the game for the Cavaliers. ... Cleveland and Indiana shot a combined 12-for-44 from the field in the first quarter. ... A double technical foul was called on Cleveland's Tristan Thompson and Indiana's West early in the third quarter. ... Indiana's Paul George missed all six of his shots. .... Indiana's newest free agent pickup, Kyrylo Fesenko, got his first minutes as a Pacer. The 7-foot-1, 290-pound center from the Ukraine finished with two points and three rebounds in seven minutes.
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