After predicting a victory over Boston on Wednesday night, the Pacers All-Star forward scored 29 points, and Indiana used a decisive fourth-quarter run to get past the Celtics 113-104.
“I was looking forward to this game because I love playing the really good teams,” Granger said. “I really love those games. This game, we got up for it and we were ready.”
Granger made sure of it.
At times, he had to almost single-handedly carry the Pacers (4-3). At others, he simply deferred to his teammates, who exposed a Boston defense focused on stopping Granger.
Dahntay Jones took advantage of that strategy in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his season-high 25 points – including eight during the decisive stretch. Four other Pacers finished in double figures and Granger earned more than a victory in the opinion of his teammates.
“He’s doing great being a vocal leader and putting it on the line like that,” guard T.J. Ford said. “Everybody is going to rally behind him.”
Indiana (4-3) has won four straight after starting 0-3.
Boston (8-3), meanwhile, has lost two straight for the first time this season, and there were a multitude of explanations.
First, there was Granger, who went 6 of 9 from 3-point range, grabbed six rebounds, had four assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
Another problem for the Celtics, injuries.
Three players – Tony Allen, Glen Davis and Bill Walker didn’t play. Forward Paul Pierce started after bruising his left knee in Friday night’s loss to Atlanta, but clearly wasn’t himself. He was 4 of 10 from the field, missed two key free throws late in the game and couldn’t move deftly enough to prevent Jones from driving the lane.
“I obviously hurt us tonight especially on the defensive end,” Pierce said. “I was a step slow all night and it really hurts. I take a lot of blame. Dahntay Jones went out and had one of his best nights, and I’m really going to take that one on the chin right there.”
The more pressing issue was Boston’s lack of composure.
Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins and coach Doc Rivers all drew technical fouls – Perkins and Rivers were cited during the Pacers big fourth-quarter run.
“We have the saying no fourth quarter techs, I got one, which I hate getting from the other end, Perk got one,” Rivers said. “So I thought the techs started us unraveling, no doubt,”
That allowed Indiana to become the third opponent to top 90 points against Boston this season. The Celtics are 0-3 in those games and are now 4-1 on the road despite getting a season-high 24 points from Ray Allen.
It just wasn’t enough to keep up with Granger & Co.
“They had more energy, their transition defense was incredible at times,” said Perkins. “At the end of the day, they just played harder.”
Granger was the catalyst.
Boston led 76-70 with 4:03 to play in the third quarter, but Indiana rallied to take an 84-79 lead heading into the fourth.
The Celtics wasted no time coming back. They opened the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run to take an 88-86 lead with 9:56 left in the game and intent to stop Granger.
Indiana’s response: Go to Jones.
“(Coach) Jim O’Brien kept calling my number, told me to be aggressive,” Jones said. “We had something that worked one time, and we kept with it. That’s what you do, you keep milking plays that are working.”
Jones then ignited the decisive 19-8 run that turned a tie game into an 11-point Pacers lead with 4:20 to go.
Boston never challenged again. The Celtics only got as close as six, and a year after the Celtics knocked out Granger’s two front teeth, the Pacers forward got a measure of revenge.
“Kept my teeth, baby,” Granger said. “That’s a good night.”
NOTES: Former Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine played the national anthem on a harmonica. … Pacers forward Troy Murphy missed his fourth straight game with a bruised lower back. … Rivers’ son, Jeremiah, and at least seven of his son’s teammates at Indiana University attended the game. … Boston was 3 of 12 on 3-pointers and shot 47.6 percent from the field.