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RECAP
01/14/2012 11:23 PM EST
Granger leads Pacers past Celtics
INDIANA 97, BOSTON 83

By CLIFF BRUNT
AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Maybe Indiana really is that good.



And perhaps Boston really is that bad.



Eight days after Indiana won at Boston, the Pacers thumped the
Celtics again, this time 97-83 on Saturday night at Bankers Life
Fieldhouse.



The first time, some considered it luck. Now, the Pacers say
they can't be overlooked.



"I think the message is that we're a force to be reckoned with
in the East," said Pacers forward Danny Granger, who scored 21
points. "It's not one of those fluke things where we just
started having a good beginning of the season. We're actually a
legitimate contender in the East. We're right there, and we
should be recognized as that."



While Indiana (9-3) is riding a wave of confidence, Boston
dropped its fourth straight game. Boston coach Doc Rivers was
concerned about playing the Pacers, especially following a home
loss to Chicago on Friday night.



"Honestly, it's a bad game going into," he said. "You knew it
would be a tough one, with a back-to-back like that. We saw that
when I saw the schedule."



Indiana was on a back-to-back too, but its young legs and depth
made that a non-issue.



"We've been stressing to push the tempo more than we did early
in the season," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We just push the
tempo, push the tempo, wear them out and put someone fresh in.
That's how we want to play every night."



The swagger normally associated with the Celtics was in the
other locker room.



"I like to say to the guys in the locker room, we're the
best-kept secret," Indiana center Roy Hibbert said. "Nobody's
talking about us. Indiana Pacers are best-kept secret. Let
everybody talk about the teams and have them ranked ahead of us,
and we're just going to go ahead and just do our business and
chop them down."



Boston's problems might be just beginning. Though Boston's best
player now is 25-year-old Rajon Rondo, the remaining starters,
Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Jermaine O'Neal, all
are at least 33 years old.



"One thing you can't battle, you can't fight, is age," Granger
said. "They all are Hall-of-Famers, but you get to a point where
age catches up with you and it's hard to compete at the level
you once competed at. I don't know if they're there yet. They
still could bounce back this season. I'm just glad we had the
two wins."



Pierce and Garnett both scored 21 points for the Celtics, but
Brandon Bass was the only other Celtic in double figures with 10
points. Boston (4-7) fell to 1-4 on the road.



Paul George and Darren Collison each scored 17 points, and
Hibbert added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers, who
won their third straight. Indiana improved to 5-0 at home, with
four wins by double digits.



The Pacers held the Celtics to 39 percent shooting and won
easily, despite shooting 37 percent themselves. Indiana
outscored the Celtics 22-14 from the free-throw line and had 23
second-chance points.



"Whenever shots fall, they fall, but we're winning, and that's
all I can say," Hibbert said.



Indiana led 56-48 at halftime, then took control after the
break.



Hibbert blocked a shot by Garnett, then Collison drained a
3-pointer at the other end to give the Pacers a 67-54 lead and
force Boston to call timeout.



Pierce hit a 3-pointer right out of the timeout, but Indiana
quickly reasserted itself. A 6-0 run, including a jumper and a
fast-break layup by Collison, helped Indiana take a 75-60 lead.
Collison's baskets were part of a 9-0 run by the Pacers during
which they held the Celtics scoreless for five minutes.



Collison scored 11 points in the third quarter to help Indiana
take an 82-67 lead. The Pacers held the Celtics to 7-for-22
shooting in the period.



"We shot a lot of jump shots," Rivers said. "I told them,
back-to-back night is not a jump-shot night. Everything is going
to be in front of the rim. It's a post night, and I thought we
got away from that."



Indiana never looked back. A dunk by George gave the Pacers a
91-73 lead with just over four minutes remaining.



Granger, who has endured Indiana's recent losing seasons, is
pleased with the way the Pacers have evolved.



"We've gained a lot of experience," he said. "We've made good
trades, our younger players have grown, and it's shown with our
success this year. It's special to see."



Notes: Pierce passed Kevin McHale and moved into third place in
Celtics history in games played (972). He still trails John
Havlicek (1,270) and Robert Parish (1,106). ... Purdue coach
Matt Painter attended the game to watch two of his former
players, Boston forward JaJuan Johnson and Boston guard E'Twaun
Moore. Moore and Johnson both entered the game in the second
quarter. Moore hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter and
finished with seven points. Johnson had a dunk in the final
minute and finished with four points. ... Allen, who entered the
game leading the league in 3-point percentage, made 1 of 3 and
finished with seven points. ... Boston failed to score more than
100 points for the ninth straight game.



--



Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap

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