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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George was struggling, and the Indiana Pacers needed a hero to combat a strong performance from Miami's 1-2 punch of Dwayne Wade and Chris Both.
Monta Ellis emphatically asserted himself when the Pacers needed it most.
Ellis had his most complete game of the year, leading the Pacers with 24 points, six assists and six steals in a 96-83 win over the Heat that ended a three-game losing streak.
"Just one of those nights," Ellis said. "I was feeling good."
That's one way to put it.
Ellis asserted himself in the third quarter with nine points, four assists and a steal that helped push the Pacers to a 77-68 advantage entering the final period.
That was after Wade and Bosh shared the ball and smothered their opponents on defense during the first half. The long-time teammates combined to score 28 of Miami's 48 points and the Pacers needed to close the half on an 11-3 run just to get back in it.
Once Ellis sparked the Pacers, George got going. He tacked on nine points in the third quarter after making just two shots in the first half — although he did make eight free throws before halftime. Feeding off Ellis' energy and George's offensive burst, the Pacers had the ingredients for a victory when center Ian Mahinmi did his part in the paint.
Mahinmi scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. After giving up more than 120 points in three consecutive games, Mahinmi said the Pacers went into this game focused on playing better defense than they recently had been.
"After losing three in a row," Mahinmi said, "this was kind of a must-win."
George, the NBA's third-leading scorer, finished with 23 points. With 5 minutes left in the first half, George had just two points. He closed the half scoring 10 points thanks in large part to the ability of Ellis to space the floor and create shots.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the key to losing control of the game was not taking care of the ball and allowing Indiana to turn Heat turnovers into points. Miami committed 19 turnovers to Indiana's 11.
"We've been a good team at taking care of the basketball," he said. "These last three games we haven't."
Bosh finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds but did most of his work in the first half. He had 14 points and eight rebounds at the break. Wade also cooled off in the second half, finishing with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Heat, who dropped their third straight game. Gerald Green had 13 points off the bench for Miami.
MOVING UP THE LADDER
George surpassed the 5,000 point mark for his career. Wade surpassed Gail Goodrich for 48th place on all-time scoring list.
NO FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
The Pacers assigned rookie guard Joe Young to their NBA Development League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Young has only appeared in seven games this year after being drafted in the second round last summer. Fellow rookie Myles Turner hasn't played since Nov. 11, when he suffered a chip fracture in his left thumb. Turner underwent successful surgery and will be evaluated later this month.
HOT HAND, COLD MONTH
Pacers guard CJ Miles has now scored in double figures in all five Pacers games in the month of December. He finished with 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in this one.
The Heat dropped their ninth consecutive game at Indiana. ... Miami as a team recorded eight blocks and were leading the NBA in blocks entering this game. ... Indiana moved to 6-0 this season when holding opponents to fewer than 90 pionts. ... Indiana is now 7-1 this season when forcing at least 18 turnovers.
Indiana plays at Detroit on Saturday.
Miami hosts Memphis on Sunday.
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