11/11 Game Preview: Pacers at Celtics
The first game of Paul George's breakout string came when Indiana beat Boston at Bankers Life Fieldhouse a week ago.
George will look to continue his recent rise Wednesday night when the suddenly hot Pacers visit TD Garden to take on the Celtics.
After spending a significant amount of time working his way back into form, George has Indiana looking like the Eastern Conference playoff contender he headed two seasons ago before breaking his leg and missing the first 76 games of 2014-15.
The Pacers (4-4) opened with three losses but have since won four of five, mainly due to the re-emergence of their high-scoring forward. George averaged 16.8 points on 33.3 percent shooting in the first four but has since poured in 30.3 points on 48.2 percent.
He has also made 44.8 percent of his 3-point attempts (13 of 29) while adding 9.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
The hot stretch began with 26 points and 10 rebounds in a 100-98 win against the Celtics on Nov. 4. George's 121 points are his most in a four-game span since he matched that number from Jan. 18-24, 2014.
Though he snapped his three-game double-double streak, George made 7 of 17 shots and 10 of 11 free throws for 27 points in a 97-84 home win over Orlando on Monday.
"I feel great skill-wise," he said. "I feel like I've had a whole year to work on my game."
The Pacers are feeling better with George's production leading to wins over Detroit, Boston, Miami and Orlando over the last week, and even a tight 101-97 loss at defending East champion Cleveland mixed in Sunday.
George Hill also broke out against the Magic with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 4 for 6 from 3-point range. Indiana used a 19-3 fourth-quarter surge to bury Orlando, which shot 39.7 percent on the night and committed 21 turnovers.
"If we can get stops, we're going to get easy buckets on the offensive end," Hill said. "I think we fuel off our defense. When our defense is struggling, our offense struggles. In the five years I've been here, when our defense is settled and all clicking on the right page, our offense is clicking also."
Boston (3-3) also started slow but has won two straight behind its stiff defense.
The Celtics surrendered a season low in points during a 99-83 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday. Boston scored 18 of 20 points to close the third, holding the Bucks without a field goal for the final 4:47 in the quarter.
"I just thought we were in good position," coach Brad Stevens said. "It wasn't like we were out in denial. We weren't trying to full-court (press), we weren't trying to do anything crazy. We were just trying to be really tough to play against within 25 feet."
Injury concerns, however, continue to plague the Celtics, who will play their second of five games in seven days. Jae Crowder scored 12 against the Bucks while playing through a bruised knee and Avery Bradley sat out the second half with a bruised lower left leg.
"I don't know what the long-term prognosis is," Stevens said of Bradley. "We're dealing with some bruises this year so far."
Boston, which has won two straight over Indiana at TD Garden, is hopeful Marcus Smart can return after sitting out three consecutive games with a sprained left big toe.