INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George scored 24 points and Lance Stephenson recorded his third triple-double of the season, leading the Indiana Pacers to a 106-79 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Stephenson had 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as Indiana (22-5) won its second straight and maintained its grip on the Eastern Conference’s best record. He’s the only player in the league with more than one triple-double this season.
Avery Bradley scored 13 points for Boston. Courtney Lee and Jeff Green each had 11 in coach Brad Stevens’ return to his hometown. Stevens grew up in Zionsville, an Indy suburb, and led nearby Butler to back-to-back national championship games as the Bulldogs’ coach.
But there was no magic for the Celtics, who lost their third in a row.
Indiana took control of the game by closing the first quarter on a 10-2 run and pulled away with a 15-1 spurt midway through the second quarter.
Boston never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Stevens, a lifelong Pacers fan, received a warm welcome before his first game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since taking the Celtics job in July.
The rest of the night was pretty tough against a foe the 37-year-old coach dubbed “the best Pacers team” he’d seen in his lifetime.
Indiana certainly lived up to the billing, winning its second straight since losing back-to-back games for the first time all season. It shot 49 percent from the field, outrebounded Boston 53-41 and only committed 13 turnovers.
Since losing Wednesday at two-time defending champion Miami, the team Indiana is battling for home-court advantage, the Pacers have beaten Western Conference contender Houston and Boston, which entered Sunday tied for the lead in the Atlantic Division, by a combined 60 points.
Now the Pacers have a chance to pad their lead over the Heat by playing 10 of their next 11 games against opponents with losing records.
Boston, like Houston, never had much of a chance at Indiana.
After the Celtics used a 7-0 run to take a 15-10 lead, the Pacers answered with the 10-2 run to make it 20-17 after one. They extended the lead to 47-28 on George Hill’s 3-pointer with 2:48 left in the first half and continued pulling away throughout the second half.
Roy Hibbert had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Pacers.