(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers, fresh off their huge victory over the Miami Heat, will welcome the Charlotte Bobcats to Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night.
After a 3-2 western road trip where the losses came to the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Pacers returned home Tuesday night to defeat the two-time defending NBA champs, 90-84.
Indiana trailed the first half, but battled back admirably. Paul George had 12 of his 17 points in the third quarter, a 12-minute stretch the Pacers won by 11.
As always, the Heat had no answer, either offensively or defensively, for Roy Hibbert. The Indiana big man finished with a game-high 24 points and David West, the third member of the Pacers frontline, also had 17. Lance Stephenson added 12.
The victory, which padded Indiana's lead over Miami in the Eastern Conference to three games, left the Pacers coach impressed.
"Everybody's going to talk about this team's talent, but this team has incredible will and heart and desire to do whatever it takes, and that's what it's about on the basketball court," Frank Vogel said. "It's the ability to whatever needs to happen for us to get a win, that's what they do and they find a way."
As if the Pacers need it, what with the best record in the league and all, but there is a big opportunity for improvement. Danny Granger, a former All-Star, could return from a strained left calf as early as Friday against the Bobcats.
"The knee is not an issue at all," said Granger, who missed basically all of last season with a knee problem. "A week ago it was the calf, but the calf is pretty good now. I'm pretty much over that. Now, it's just conditioning."
The Bobcats had a two-game winning streak halted on Wednesday when the Orlando Magic defeated them in Charlotte, 92-83. The Bobcats only shot 37 percent from the field.
They only scored 42 points in the first half, but trailed by one. The Magic padded the cushion in the third quarter, then held Charlotte off in the final period.
"Our readiness to start the game was poor," said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford. "And at the end of the game they did a good job, and we got outworked on the glass."
Gerald Henderson led the Bobcats with a whopping 12 points. Josh McRoberts added 11 and Kemba Walker, Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson all finished with 10 points. Jefferson grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Pacers bested the Bobcats, 99-74, in Charlotte on Nov. 27 and have taken four in a row and 13 of 14 meetings in this series. Indiana is 14-3 all-time against the Bobcats in Indianapolis.