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Celtics' defense stops Pacers, losing streak

The SportsXchange

BOSTON -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers was hoping his team would turn up the defensive pressure in Friday night's game against the Indiana Pacers.

The coach got his wish, and Boston ended a four-game losing streak with a 94-75 handling of Indiana, the first-place team in the Central Division.

The 75 points allowed marked a season-best for the Celtics, while the Pacers, whose two-game winning streak ended, managed to beat their previous low of 72.

"Well, this year, for sure," Rivers said when asked if his team put in its best 48 minutes of defense. "I think we had another game ... it's funny, I think the team scored a hundred points, but I thought our defense against Oklahoma City (Nov. 23) was phenomenal but they still scored a hundred -- they've got a guy named (Kevin) Durant that's pretty good."

David West (17.2) and Paul George (16.9), Indiana's two-leading scorers, were both 4-for-18 from the floor, as the Pacers shot just 31.8 percent overall and went just 4-for-17 from 3-point range.

Asked about the defense against the pair, Rivers said, "It was just our team defense overall; I don't think it was really specific to two people, but they were part of it. I just thought our help, our hands, our deflections ... "I just thought we were physical and I thought we played hard the whole game."

Said George, who came in on a hot streak: "It was just an off night."

Pacers coach, Frank Vogel added, "I give credit to Boston's defense and bouncing back out of their slump."

Kevin Garnett, shifted back to center, scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being ejected for a Flagrant-2 foul with 8:24 left in the game; just before he would have been done for the night, anyway. He smacked Tyler Hansbrough in the face as Hansbrough drove.

"Listen, honestly, there was so much crap going on at that point, I just think (referee Jim Capers) has been around the game a long time. I think he was thinking, 'I'm going to do Kevin a favor and get him out of here,' because it was getting chippy. I had Brandon (Bass) at the table, anyway, because I could see that, too.

"I really think sometimes that's what officials do and you can't blame them for it if that's what it was."

Said Hansbrough: "I've got nothing to say about it. It is what it is."

Garnett said, "I didn't mean to get him in the face like that. I was actually trying to swipe the ball but it was a physical game and they called it the way it was, part of the game."

Rajon Rondo, still playing with a bruised hip, had 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Paul Pierce posted 13 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Jared Sullinger had seven points and 10 boards in another strong effort off the bench. Avery Bradley, in his second game back after two shoulder surgeries, was just 3-for-11 from the floor but had a profound effect in the defensive effort.

The Celtics, who face road games at Atlanta and New York, respectively, Saturday and Monday, were able to win without any starter logging more than 29 minutes.

Hansbrough, who came in averaging six points per game, came off the bench to lead the Pacers with 19 points in 23 minutes, while West (10 points) and Roy Hibbert (seven) both had 10 rebounds.

The Celtics led by two five minutes into the second quarter but then ran off 11 straight points over a 1:25 span and the run grew to 17-4. Boston wound up leading by 12 at the half and then used another spurt to go up by 19 with 6:12 left in the third quarter.

In addition to still missing star Danny Granger, who still hasn't played this season because of a knee injury, the Pacers were also without valuable guard George Hill, who missed his second straight game with a groin injury.

NOTES: Indiana's Lance Stephenson hit a 3-pointer with 6:26 left in the first quarter and was then hit with a technical foul for taunting in the Boston bench. Pierce missed the free throw, the Celtics' only attempt at the line in the quarter. Vogel was hit with a technical foul in the second quarter, but Pierce missed that free throw too. West got one in the third quarter and Jason Terry converted. ... The teams combined to go just 27-for-46 from the foul line. ... Bass was back in the starting lineup for the Celtics as reunited the starting lineup that was in place through the first two rounds of last year's playoffs, before Avery Bradley was lost. The move sent Garnett back to center and Jason Collins to the bench. "We want to stay as big as possible, what we didn't like with Jason in the (starting) lineup was -- now we're going to play him every night, and when he and Kevin were off the floor, we got small quickly," Rivers said before the game. "This way we can keep a big on the floor at all times." ... The Pacers open a three-game homestand against Milwaukee Saturday night. ... The Celtics returned Kris Joseph back to the Development League, while fellow Syracuse rookie Fab Melo remained in town for concussion evaluation that won't take place until next week.
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