BOSTON -- The Indiana Pacers have trailed at halftime in nine of their 12 games this season.
"We need to stop that. We need to come out and destroy teams early. We can't rely on second halves to win the games," guard Lance Stephenson said after his second triple-double in the last five games (the first two of his career) helped the Pacers come from behind to beat the Boston Celtics 97-82 on Friday night.
"I don't think that's a good thing that we wait until the second half to get ready and win the game."
The Pacers are averaging 41.1 points per game in the first half, 30th (last) in the NBA. They're averaging 54.0 in the second half, tops in the league.
On Friday night, they were down 50-42 at halftime and then held the Celtics to eight points in the third quarter to move to 8-1 when trailing at halftime.
"We've gotta get off to better starts," said forward David West, who had 17 points and eight rebounds. "Once we start rolling, we'll get everybody's best shot. We have to do a better job when we start games, and particularly how we finish off (first) halves."
The win, the second straight after their first loss of the season, allowed the Pacers to stay even with the San Antonio Spurs for the league's best record.
"I'm really proud of our guys' effort, particularly in the second half, particularly in the third quarter, how we buckled down on the defensive end," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Our starters, as a unit, have a gear defensively that they can reach that is pretty special. They hit that in the third and took control of the game."
The rebuilding Celtics lost their sixth game in a row to fall to 4-10.
"The last three teams (Houston, San Antonio and Indiana), they are what their record says they are, right? They're really good teams," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "And you can extend that back a few games before that (Minnesota, Portland and Charlotte); it's just been a tough stretch. Hopefully, we don't get down. We can stay up."
The Celtics, getting 19 points from guard Jordan Crawford, led at the half but then turned the ball over 11 times and went 3-for-14 in the third quarter. The Indiana rally continued into the fourth quarter as the Pacers led by as many as 20.
Forward Paul George led the Pacers with 27 points, including 22 in the second half. Luis Scola added 17 points. Stephenson, the only NBA player with two triple-doubles this season, had with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Crawford, who hit his first nine shots, was 8-for-8 in a first half that ended with him banking home a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer. He finished with a season-high 24 points and forward Jeff Green added 20 for Boston.
Forward Jared Sullinger, making his second straight start, was under the weather but had 13 points and five rebounds in over 31 minutes.
Asked what he took from the latest loss, Crawford said, "That we didn't complete it. We didn't finish strong for 48 minutes. That's what you take out of it. Having a good half is having a good half ... that's pretty much what it is."
Celtics rookie forward Kelly Olynyk left the game in the first half with a right ankle sprain and did not return. Stevens didn't know Olynyk status for Saturday night's game at Atlanta.
NOTES: The Celtics held a pregame moment of silence on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. ... Indiana G C.J. Watson was out with an upper respiratory infection. ... The Indiana win ended the Pacers' four-game losing streak in the series, but the Celtics will be experiencing plenty of that this season. ... Pacers coach Frank Vogel started his NBA career as the Celtics' video director. "Every nook and cranny of this building has some sort of memory of a win or a loss or an experience," he said before the game. "Just like this whole city, when you walk around the city, there's so many memories here. It's always great coming back here." ... Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who left Butler (in Indianapolis) for Boston, was a lifelong Pacers fan until this season. ... The Pacers are home for Philadelphia and Minnesota on Saturday and Monday, and the Celtics go from Atlanta to Charlotte.