For the second time in as many games, the Indiana Pacers were able to cruise into the win column behind another lopsided win, tonight against the Boston Celtics. The Pacers turned on the burners in the second quarter, using a 24-5 run to break up a second quarter tie that Indiana never looked back from. That stretch, mostly helmed by a Lance Stephenson led bench, was a showcase of precision, timing, and teamwork that resulted in Stephenson's third triple-double of the season.
Stephenson was on triple-double watch all night, dishing out six first half assists before finally hitting a three pointer in the fourth quarter to give him a final night line of 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Stephenson got a little hungry of his final points that he began to settle for shots, but leading up to that, he was electrifying with his passing and playmaking abilities that included in the air passes and anklebreakers.
It's games like this that really showcase the importance of Stephenson's ability to create for himself and others. He was a big part of Indiana's assist to field goal ratio, which wrapped up a hefty 28 assists on 41 field goals. The player who benefited the most from Stephenson's night might have been Danny Granger, who in his second game back, scored 12 points on 4-5 three point shooting.
It might not be fair to credit Granger for the team's explosion these past two games, but his presence and abilities have put the Pacers on another level. Granger not only provided steady and consistent scoring off the bench tonight, but he was active in other aspects of the game, grabbing five rebounds and getting a block. While Indiana's bench points aren't a life or death situation due to the team's rotations, having multiple players coming off the bench who can get you double figures on a given night is an incredible luxury for maybe the best starting five in the entire league, and it sure looks like it's going to be paying dividends if Indiana can keep their roster upright.
That starting five had three double figure scorers. In addition to Stephenson, Roy Hibbert was a big part of Indiana's success in the first half, scoring 13 points as part of his 15 & 12 double double, getting three blocks and three assists on his night. His only issue was the team's major issue; free throw shooting, going just 1-4 on the night. The team did improve on a woeful first half from the line, going 8-9 in the second half for 15-22 overall.
Paul George led the way for a third quarter explosion, with layup after layup by the Pacers leading way to 18 third quarter points as part of his game high 24. David West was a quiet 3-7 for eight points, but was a big part of Indiana's passing success with six assists. George Hill pitched with seven as all nine of Indiana's rotation found multiple points on the board.
The bench in addition to Granger was excellent as well. Luis Scola had nine points including six trips to the free throw line, but it was the continued high quality play from Ian Mahinmi that was great to see. Mahinmi logged 22 minutes, and "only" came up with five fouls on the night, while getting some solid defensive digs, getting a pair of steals. He was even a part of Indiana's offense with four points, eight rebounds (four offensive), and four assists. C.J. Watson joined in with a quiet nine points on 3-6 shooting, including two steals of his own.
As fluid and in control of the game as Indiana's offense was, they were just as dominate on the defensive end. Hibbert, along with Mahinmi held the Celtics to just 22 points in the paint as the Celtics only shot 38%. While they got balanced scoring, no one was able to carry the load as Avery Bradley led the way for Boston with 13 points on 6-14 shooting. The end result was a four quarter sweep for the blue and gold, who outscored Boston 60-41 across the middle two quarters.
Indiana will put their recent play to the test when they travel to Brooklyn for a back-to-back with the Nets. The Nets got news yesterday that they'll be without their All-Star center Brook Lopez for the rest of the season, sending an already disappointing season into further doubt. But the Pacers will still need to bring their best game if they hope to head into Christmas with a victory.