Andrew Bynum made his Indiana Pacers debut tonight against the Boston Celtics, and did so in impressive fashion, scoring eight points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Pacers snap their four game losing streak and sweep the Celtics on the season. Indiana struggled out of the gate, falling behind by five early, but jumped into the lead with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter on a Bynum dunk from Evan Turner.
The Pacers used a 12-4 run to jump ahead 24-18, eventually moving up seven in the second quarter thanks to much improved bench play. Boston would pull within three as Evan Turner helped key a 13-2 run to put Indiana up 47-33 with the Celtics finishing strong to close the half at 49-40. Indiana was unable to build on a 10-point lead in the third quarter until Paul George's return from foul trouble late in the third helped the Pacers jump ahead by 15.
Boston cut the lead in half heading into the fourth quarter and thanks to their huge offensive rebounding advantage, pulled within three points, eventually pulling the game to within a single point at 77-76 with 6:43 minutes remaining. After a pair of impressive defensive stands, Lance Stephenson came to life, scoring seven points to push Indiana ahead 88-80, with David West closing the game out with the team's final six points to wrap up a 94-83 victory, snapping Indiana's four game losing streak.
The Pacers played well enough on both ends of the floor to come away with the win despite the Celtics fighting all the back to within a point. Indiana never relinquished the lead to Boston, but did allow them to control the offensive glass, grabbing 20 offensive boards, leading to 18 extra field goal attempts, which were plenty to keep Boston in the game despite being held to just 35% shooting on the night.
The key defensive stands in the fourth quarter with the game at three were a huge boost for the Pacers, with Roy Hibbert picking up Jared Sullinger, forcing a corner pass to Chris Johnson, who missed the shot clock beating three point attempt. On the following attempt, George Hill read Rajon Rondo's fakes brilliantly, eventually chasing him off the three point line, timing his fake and pass perfectly for the steal.
Both possessions led to Indiana baskets on the other end, pushing a three point lead to seven. Boston would respond with a Sullinger layup, but five points was the closest the Celtics would draw the rest of the night. It was part of a stretch where Indiana scored on four straight possessions, helping to tick up their field goal percentage to 54.8% on the night.
The success of Indiana's shooting was helped in a big way by the Pacers bench. After stumbling to just four points in Sunday's game, the second unit shot 65% from the floor, getting a huge lift from Andrew Bynum, who neared a double double in his Indiana debut. Bynum's active play in the first half was surprising to see given his time off, but he positioned himself positively for big rebounds, leading the team with three offensive boards, sending a great pass to West, for his assist on the night. Bynum finished 3-4 shooting.
Luis Scola found his jumper tonight, scoring nine of his 11 in the second quarter, finishing on 5-7 shooting with five rebounds. Evan Turner had a quiet and efficient night, scoring nine points on 4-4 shooting, including a three pointer with three assists, finding Bynum for his first Indiana points. Donald Sloan even offered a positive night of his own, scoring three points and dishing four assists (with zero turnovers).
The bench as a whole scored 31 points, which was a huge boost in the first half, especially with foul trouble eating away at Paul George and Roy Hibbert's playing time. George, who was whistled for three offensive fouls, continues to struggle with whistles going against him rather than for him, but managed 12 points on 5-10 shooting with four assists and two steals.
George Hill went scoreless in the second half, but was a key part of Indiana's first half success with 12 points and two three pointers. Despite not scoring in the second half, he did a tremendous job all night corralling Rajon Rondo and limiting his effectiveness. Rondo had eight points on 4-15 shooting, with eight assists and two turnovers, including the big steal that helped extend Indiana's lead to seven in the fourth quarter.
Roy Hibbert had a solid all around game despite scoring just six points. He came up with nine rebounds on the night, including a pair during the game's deciding stretch, playing well down the stretch to help seal the victory. Lance Stephenson went scoreless in the first half, but came up with seven points late in the fourth quarter to help shake his 4-12 night where his foul trouble quickly mounted.
While overshadowed a bit by Bynum's debut, it was David West who was Indiana's best player tonight, scoring 24 points on 11-13 shooting, turning around his woeful performance on Sunday with a superb showing tonight. Despite his impressive night, first half foul trouble and a technical foul led to the coaching staff sending him back to the locker room a little early to cool off. Angry or collected, West was unstoppable tonight, wrapping up Indiana's win the team's final six points.
Despite Boston fighting to within a point, it never really seemed like the Celtics had it in them to overtake the Pacers. Indiana looked much more in control despite Boston's success with rebounding and Indiana's 16 turnovers. It finally feels like the Pacers may be trending in the positive. Playing below .500 competition may help that, but even before their four game skid, they weren't showing themselves to be world beaters, with a trio of five point (or less) wins leading up to the loss to Golden State.
The benefit of the Indiana schedule will give them more opportunities to play themselves back into form with a road game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. The Sixers are, unsurprisingly, winless since the trade deadline, as they're currently riding out a 17-game losing streak, failing to come even within 10 points of a win since February 12.