Paul George locks down James Harden, and scores 33

James Harden was limited to 15 points while Paul George poured in 33. [Frank McGrath]

Locked in and engaged from the tip, Paul George held James Harden to 15 points Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse as the Pacers (25-22) earned their third straight victory, 120-101, over the Houston Rockets (35-16).

George has been a pest for Harden their entire career. This was another performance where Harden didn’t look comfortable and could not get in a groove against Indiana’s star.

“It’s fun playing against the good matchups,” George said postgame. “I get a rush. It’s an excitement for me. At the end of the day, this is what it comes down to and what people come out to see — me versus him, and us versus them. I look forward to those matchups.”

[WATCH: Paul George throws it down on Houston’s Clint Capela]

It was the worst shooting night of the season for Harden, a five-time NBA All-Star and a serious MVP candidate. He missed eight of his ten 3-point attempts, was was held to 3-of-17 (18 percent) shooting.

His previous low field goal percentage this season was 25 percent, which has happened twice.

It had been 15 games since Harden, who has 14 triple-doubles and a double-double in 41 of their 51 games, last shot below 30 percent. That was on January 2nd against the Washington Wizards. He recorded one of those 14 triple-doubles (23-10-10), but did so shooting 6-of-24 (25 percent).

“It was nothing. We just didn’t have it,” Harden said postgame.

“Obviously Paul is playing at a high level, especially these last few games. They came out ready, prepared, and they made shots, and that was the game. He’s long, he’s athletic. That’s it.”

“I felt that trust that I had with Roy [Hibbert] with Myles [Turner] behind me tonight. And that’s really what made it tough, I felt, for Harden to get going,” George added.

The Rockets, playing in their final game of a five-game road trip, were kept to 41-percent shooting and were led by Ryan Anderson’s 27 points. Indiana product Eric Gordon contributed 14 points.

George, last week voted to his fourth All-Star game, finished with a game-high 33 points on 13-of-23 shooting, plus nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block — all while defending one of the toughest covers in the league. Many players have called Harden the best one-on-one player in the league because of his craftiness, 3-point shooting, and ability to get to the foul line.

“James Harden is such a hard guard,” said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. “He’s good at drawing fouls and if Paul got a couple, we would have switched Jeff [Teague] on him. We started with Paul and just matched his minutes with Harden. He stayed in front of him. … He did a good job of being there and not letting him see the basket clearly.”

With 33 points, George has scored at least 31 points for the fourth consecutive game. Offensively, it’s his best stretch of the season.

Watch George’s full comments:

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