Stephenson propels Pacers past Nets

Joe Pantorno, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson likes to play in his hometown of Brooklyn.
While he had to worry about playing Santa early, getting masses of family and friends into the Barclays Center, he also had to focus on the Brooklyn Nets, and he did so in headlining fashion Monday.
Stephenson scored a career-high 26 points, and the Pacers earned their third consecutive win, 103-86 over the Nets.
"I had my family out here and just wanted to have a great Christmas," Stephenson said. "I was very motivated. ... I couldn't sleep at night. I'm just happy we got the 'W.'"
Stephenson, who recorded his third triple-double Sunday night against the Boston Celtics, is the only player in the NBA to have multiple triple-double efforts this season. His speed and athleticism proved too much for the Nets' defense, as Brooklyn could not find any answers for the hometown product. He added seven rebounds and five assists for Indiana (23-5).
"I feel like every shot is good, that's how confident I feel right now," Stephenson said. "Nobody cares who has the career high, how many points you have, we're just playing together, and it goes with the flow."
The Nets (9-18) lost the game in the third quarter, when the Pacers outscored them 30-19, including a 15-4 run to start the half. Indiana forward Paul George scored 10 of his 26 points in the period.
"I think it's just sharing the ball, playing with the mindset that we're going to get guys open," George said. "We haven't given up opportunities for teams to exploit us. Our rotation has been great."
According to Nets head coach Jason Kidd, his side has the opposite mentality.
"It's getting close to just accepting losing and getting comfortable with it," Kidd said. "When things get tough, we just give in."
A stifling Indiana defense frustrated the Nets, including veterans Brooklyn forward Paul Pierce, who clothes-lined guard George Hill on a fast-break opportunity off a steal in the third quarter. Pierce was ejected from the game without scoring a single point.
"We didn't want to lose our head," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We want to be a team that lets our play do the talking. We're not a trash-talking team. We're a confident team that believes in ourselves."
Brooklyn was held to less than 38.2 percent shooting from the field while committing 18 turnovers. Guard Joe Johnson led the Nets with 17 points, while guard Deron Williams was held to nine points, though he added eight assists.
Nets guard Jason Terry returned after missing 15 games with a sore knee, and he scored 11 points.
"This is what we have," Terry said. "There's nobody coming here to save the day, so we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We have to go out and grind it out."
The Nets embarked upon the rest of their season without center Brook Lopez, who was lost for the year Friday night when he broke his foot. Forward Kevin Garnett stepped in for the Nets' leading scorer and finished with 12 points.
"We feel that we can still compete," Kidd said. "Our turnovers and our missed shots just snowballed into a situation where we lost control of the game."
Indiana center Roy Hibbert was held scoreless the entire first half, not recording a basket until two minutes were gone in the third quarter. Picking up his fourth foul midway through the third, he was relegated to the bench for much of the second half but bounced back effectively to finish with eight points and nine rebounds.
Ian Mahinmi recorded seven points while filling in for Hibbert.
Five turnovers in the first quarter caused a small setback for the Pacers, but the mid-range game of George and West helped the Eastern Conference's best team overcome the early struggles.
"We built up some momentum," Vogel said. "We were on a two-game road losing streak; I like how our guys responded to this losing streak. We had to get off the schneid."
The Nets managed to hang tough with the Pacers despite shooting just 7-for-29 from the field (24.1 percent).
Stephenson recorded 14 first-half points to pace Indiana.
"The ceiling is pretty high with Stephenson," Vogel said. "I don't know how to define it other than that he has to continue to play within and he has to continue to grow his defensive discipline."
NOTES: The Pacers lost two in a row last week, the first time this season they dropped consecutive games, but they followed with two wins over the weekend. ... Nets C Brook Lopez is lost for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. Lopez led the team with 20.7 points per game and was second with 6.0 rebounds per game. ... G Jason Terry returned to the Nets on Monday after missing 15 games with a bruised left knee. ... Pacers F Danny Granger played in his third game of the season as he is coming back from a calf injury. He averaged 8.5 points in 23.5 minutes over his first two games, then went scoreless in 15 minutes Monday. ... The two teams meet again in Indiana on Saturday.

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