Perhaps the most surprising development during a winless road swing was that the Indiana Pacers just couldn’t seem to get a stop on the defensive end.
They’re hoping a return home – and the likely debut of Andrew Bynum – will help change that.
Bynum is expected to play for the first time as Indiana tries to avert its longest skid in more than two years Tuesday night, when it can also sweep a season series from the Boston Celtics for the first time since 1999.
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Although the Pacers (46-17) are tied for the NBA lead with 92.2 points allowed per game and have given up a league-low 41.9 field-goal percentage, they surrendered an average of 108.7 points on 49.4 percent shooting during an 0-3 trip.
While it nearly wiped out a 17-point first-half deficit Sunday, Eastern Conference-best Indiana allowed 57 second-half points en route to its fourth consecutive loss and third straight by double digits, 105-94 at Dallas.
Paul George finished with 27 points, Lance Stephenson had 21 and George Hill added 20, but the Pacers weren’t able to bounce back following their most lopsided loss in a 26-point defeat at Houston two days earlier.
"Stay the course," coach Frank Vogel said. "It’s a tough stretch of the schedule. We knew it was going to be tough. You’re going to have to play at your best to win at Dallas, at Houston."
Vogel’s club now looks to avoid its first five-game losing streak since February 2012 while dealing the Celtics (22-41) their fifth straight road loss. The Pacers, one of the league’s top defensive clubs the past two seasons, haven’t allowed 100 points in four consecutive games since April 2011.
They’ve only given up triple digits in three of 33 home games, and in this one they’re expected to give Bynum some run for the first time since signing the oft-troubled former All-Star on Feb. 1.
Earlier this week, Vogel told reporters Bynum wasn’t likely to play until Friday. But with backup center Ian Mahinmi hurting, Vogel changed the plan and told reporters after Tuesday’s shootaround that Bynum would play against the Celtics.
The 7-footer averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24 games with Cleveland before being suspended indefinitely in December. He was eventually traded to the Bulls and released
He and the Pacers will face a Boston team that finished with a season-high 38 assists and a season-low seven turnovers in a 118-111 home win over Detroit on Sunday. The Celtics shot 15 for 22 in the third quarter, hitting eight 3-pointers, in their highest scoring game since beating Orlando 120-105 on Nov. 11.
Jeff Green led six players in double figures with 27 points, while Kris Humphries scored 20 and Kelly Olynyk added 18 off the bench to help Boston win its second in a row.
"We scored a bunch of points," said Rajon Rondo, who had a season-high 18 assists without a turnover. "We kept on pushing. We played free and just had fun."
It’s been a much different story when they’ve faced the Pacers, who can sweep the season series for the first time since taking all three in 1998-99.
The Celtics have put up 86.0 points per game while dropping the three meetings by an average of 15.7 points. They shot just 38.1 percent from the floor in a 106-79 loss on their last trip to Indianapolis on Dec. 22.
Although Green scored a combined 47 in the two home meetings, he was held to 11 points at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Rondo did not play in the first two games while recovering from a torn ACL, but finished with 12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in a 102-97 home loss March 1. That was Boston’s only loss in its last seven against East opponents.
George has been tough on the Celtics, averaging 25.3 points and hitting 8 of 17 from 3-point range in this series.
Boston is expected to be without guard Avery Bradley for a 12th consecutive game due to a sprained ankle.