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By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Paul George and the Central Division-leading Indiana Pacers aren't thrilled with their latest performance.
At least it came in a win, which is something that has eluded the Boston Celtics over the last week.
Coming off one of their worst shooting performances of the season, the Pacers try for a rare road win in Boston on Friday night while sending the Celtics to a fifth straight loss.
Indiana (19-13) is atop the division thanks to a 9-2 run that continued with Wednesday's 89-81 victory over Washington. George's 29 points and 14 rebounds were key to the Pacers overcoming their 37.7 percent shooting in order to beat the team with the NBA's worst record.
"We didn't do a good enough job executing," said George, who made 9 of 19 from the field. "Luckily, we made enough shots to win, but we didn't do a good job at all of executing. We play tough teams and that's not going to fly."
Indiana is about to find that out soon enough with Milwaukee, Miami and New York all ahead on the schedule. First, though, the Pacers face the struggling Celtics (14-17).
Boston has been outscored by an average of 19.7 points in losing its last four games, and has dropped eight of 10 overall to fall three games under .500 this late into a season for the first time since 2006-07.
"I'm a sore loser," guard Rajon Rondo told the team's official website after Wednesday's 93-83 defeat to Memphis. "It's tough to lose."
Boston's slide has been partly due to defensive struggles, allowing opponents to average 104.5 points and make 50.5 percent from the floor - including 48.3 from behind the arc.
"Whatever we're doing wrong, it's not going to get fixed in a day," coach Doc Rivers said. "That's what happens when things aren't going well: You've got to make them go well."
Rondo is trying to do his part, totaling 20 assists in two games since a bruised thigh and hip forced him to sit out Saturday's 101-83 road defeat to Golden State. However, he's also totaled just 13 points, going 5 for 17 from the field while missing all seven attempts from long range.
Paul Pierce is averaging 14.0 points on 36.1 percent shooting in five games after totaling 75 over the prior two. He's averaging 20.8 points over his last 12 home meetings with Indiana, including a 28-point performance in a 94-87 win Jan. 27.
The Celtics have won 11 of the last 13 regular-season meetings with the Pacers in Boston, holding Indiana to an average of 89.6 points and 40.6 percent shooting. The Pacers are hoping George can continue his strong play to get them out of this funk.
George is averaging 19.6 points and 8.4 rebounds over the past 11 games, and Indiana is 9-2 on the season when he scores at least 20.
"Paul George is becoming a beast of a player on both ends of the court," coach Frank Vogel said. "He's probably the best wing defender in the NBA. We talk all the time about how good his hands are, but his feet are even better. His ability to contain the basketball and really shut down perimeter scorers is unique and special, and it's coming on the offensive end just the same."
George is averaging 14.3 points in three games at Boston, but he was held to two points while missing all seven attempts from the floor in an 86-72 home loss April 7, the team's last meeting.
George Hill was just as brutal in that matchup, failing to convert on six shots from the field to finish with no points. This time, he's expected to return from a strained right groin that has sidelined him for two games.
Updated January 4, 2013