Pacers roll over Celtics

Cliff Brunt, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- As well as the Indiana Pacers have played this season, they might have reached a new level.
Forward Paul George scored 24 points, guard Lance Stephenson had a triple-double, and the Indiana Pacers defeated the Boston Celtics 106-79 Sunday night to improve the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The newest element for Indiana is forward Danny Granger. He played in just his second game this season after sitting out with a strained left calf, and the former All-Star scored 12 points and made four of five 3-pointers in 25 minutes.
"Adding Granger is scary," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "I think the more he gets comfortable, the better they'll be. I think they're already, if they're not the leader for the hunt (for the NBA title), they're in the hunt."
Stephenson finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, his second triple-double in two games against the Celtics this season and his third overall.
"Every night, I'm trying to bring something to the table," Stephenson said. "If it's defense or assists or rebounds or anything, just getting my teammates energized."
Center Roy Hibbert added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Pacers (22-5).
The blowout followed a 114-81 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday. The Pacers had started slowly in many games this season before dominating in the second half, but Indiana was in full control by the break with a 52-37 lead against the Celtics, the second straight game the Pacers led by double digits heading into the locker room.
"I think the key for us is now we're getting out with energy," George said. "We're starting out with great energy, and that's the key. We always find it in the second half and really suffocate teams defensively, but these past couple games, we've got out to good leads because we've been running and starting the game with energy."
Guard Avery Bradley scored 13 points and forward Jeff Green and guard Courtney Lee scored 11 points apiece for the Celtics (12-17), who entered the game tied for the Atlantic Division lead.
"Indiana just came out and kicked our behind," Celtics center Jared Sullinger said. "We just have to play better."
The Pacers were up by 15 at halftime and did their usual damage in the third quarter. George passed behind the back to point guard George Hill for a layup that gave Indiana a 60-41 lead early in the period. The Pacers started the second half with a 13-4 run that pushed their advantage to 65-41.
George hit a 3-pointer and was fouled with 5:25 left in the third quarter. His free throw bumped Indiana's lead to 69-44.
The Pacers led 80-58 at the end of the period. George scored 18 points on 6-for-6 shooting in the quarter to put the game out of reach.
Stephenson got his triple-double on a 3-pointer with 4:44 to play.
"At times, I get on his back and let him run the show because I know he's going to make the right plays, find the right person, and he does it with a passion," George said. "His plays are all passion plays, and we feed off of that."
Stephenson's improvement is another reason Indiana has a lot to look forward to. The 23-year-old, known for his flashy plays, is becoming more dependable.
"His ability to do everything on the floor -- there's not a lot of guys in that category," George said. "He's special. He's a special player. For him, he's starting to put everything together."
NOTES: Brad Stevens led Butler University, an Indianapolis school, to the NCAA title game twice before taking over as the Celtics' head coach. He was cheered when he was introduced before starting lineups were announced. ... The Pacers won the previous meeting 97-82 in Boston. Indiana took control of that game by outscoring the Celtics 25-8 in the third quarter. ... The Pacers led 20-17 at the end of the first quarter Sunday night after holding Boston to 30 percent shooting. ... The Pacers had 17 assists in the first half to five for the Celtics, and Indiana finished with a 28-16 edge in that category.