INDIANAPOLIS We've seen from time to time the Boston Celtics come in and save the day.
Saturday night was one of those times as the C's second unit gave the Celtics a nice cushion to play with in the first half, and the starters like Paul Pierce took care of business in the second half in Boston's 86-72 victory.
With the win, Boston (31-24) snapped a two-game losing skid and will go into Sunday's game against Philadelphia in first place in the Atlantic.
For Indiana (34-22), the loss snapped a four-game winning streak.
Boston went into the half Saturday night leading by double digits, similar to what they did against Chicago on Thursday night. But the second half brought about a Celtics slump against the Bulls, and ultimately a loss.
You can bet that was a message drilled into the Celtics players at the half.
To their credit, Boston showed no signs of letting up in the third quarter as Indiana missed five of its first six shots from the field.
Still, the C's couldn't quite pull away like they would have wanted to, courtesy of some poor shooting of their own.
Not surprisingly, the Pacers managed to get Boston's lead down to single digits.
But to the C's credit, they did just enough to still maintain a comfortable lead, 59-51, going into the fourth.
Just as Paul Pierce carried the C's in the third when the Pacers tried to mount a comeback, it was Rajon Rondo doing yet another masterful job of managing the game and getting all his teammates great looks at the basket. And then there was Kevin Garnett getting it done in the fourth as well, despite being in foul trouble.
His play down the stretch was a nice compliment to the strong performance in the first half by his backup, Greg Stiemsma.
A number of Boston backups played well in the first half, but Stiemsma's play was instrumental in the C's setting a defensive tone that propelled them to a comfortable lead for most of the night.
And as the half ended, he was on pace for his first career triple-double with 10 points, five rebounds and five blocked shots. He didn't score another point in the second half, but he did finish with a career-high nine rebounds.
Stiemsma wasn't the only backup burying the Pacers in the first half.
Sasha Pavlovic, who has teeter-tottered in and out of the C's rotation all season, was on his game from the start.
He had eight points in the first half which included a buzzer-beating jumper to end the first quarter.
And then there's the new guy to the second unit, Ray Allen.
Coming off the bench for the second straight game - and sixth time in his career - Allen shook off some early shooting woes to tally 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
While Boston's bench did its share of scoring in the first half, it was their defense that really set the tone, as Indiana fell behind by as many as 17 points in large part because they missed their first 11 shots from the field in the second.
However, Indiana rallied with a 7-0 spurt that cut Boston's lead to 10 with 2:35 to play in the half. From there, the two went back and fourth with the half ending with the C's up by 10 points.