Game Preview: Celtics at Pacers
All it took for the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers to have their most impressive all-around game of the season was their first losing streak of 2013-14.
The Pacers will now look to stay on the winning track as they host the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Indiana had won its first 11 home games before a surprising 101-96 loss to Detroit last Sunday - the only time this season the defensive-minded Pacers have allowed at least 100 points on their home floor. They followed that with a 97-94 defeat at Miami on Tuesday.
On the heels of their first skid since dropping the final three games of the 2012-13 regular season - mostly due to resting the regulars for the playoffs - the Pacers returned home Friday and didn't so much beat the Houston Rockets as thoroughly dismantle them.
"This team doesn't like losing," coach Frank Vogel said. "We talked about playing mad for four quarters."
It certainly seemed that way for Indiana, which scored a season high while holding Houston to its season low in the 114-81 rout. The potent Rockets, who came in averaging 107.1 points, went 32 for 84 from the field and missed 18 of 22 attempts from 3-point range while falling behind by as many as 36.
"We always say that good teams will bounce back," said George Hill, who had 12 points. "That showed we're a good team."
Paul George scored 24 points to lead six players in double figures.
The Pacers hit a season high 12 3-pointers, and had their largest victory margin (33) and second-best field goal percentage (53.1) of the season.
"It's a good feeling because when we're at our best, we feel like we're unstoppable," George said. "It was good to come out and play with high energy against a high-energy team."
Indiana's already well-balanced offense could get even better if former All-Star Danny Granger can return to form. Granger, who missed most of last season because of a left knee injury and had been sidelined this season by a strained left calf, was a bit rusty in his return and finished with five points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Granger has averaged 18.1 points in his career, including 25.8 in 2008-09.
The Celtics, who were beaten 97-82 at home by the Pacers on Nov. 22, lost for the fourth time in six games Saturday with a 106-99 defeat against Washington on Saturday.
Avery Bradley scored 26 points and Jared Sullinger added 22 and 11 rebounds for Boston, which wasted an 18-point lead three days after squandering a 21-point cushion in a 107-106 loss to the Pistons.
After Jeff Green's layup with 6:14 left gave the Celtics a 92-84 lead, they went nearly six minutes without a field goal during a 14-1 run by the Wizards.
"You have to stay focused," Celtics guard Jordan Crawford said. "You've got to step on the pedal when you have them down."
The loss closed a 2-3 homestand for the Celtics, who return home to face Cleveland and Atlanta after visiting Indiana.
Despite their lackluster record, the Celtics are neck-and-neck with Toronto atop the NBA-worst Atlantic.
The Pacers lost four in a row against the Celtics prior to their victory in Boston earlier this season.