Indiana Pacers improve to 8-0
Indiana, the lone unbeaten team in the NBA, beat visiting Memphis 95-79 to improve to 8-0.
The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS – Eight straight victories isn’t enough for the perfect Pacers.
They have bigger plans.
The league’s last unbeaten team got 23 points from Paul George and the first triple-double of Lance Stephenson’s career to run past Memphis 95-79 Monday and complete a brutal five-games-in-seven-days stretch with a sweep.
Indiana extended its franchise-best start to 8-0, becoming the seventh team to achieve the feat since 2000.
“Everything we’re shooting for is attainable, but we’ve got a long way to go, a lot of work to do,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “It was probably our most complete game.”
Indiana has made no secret of this season’s plan — dethroning two-time defending league champion Miami. The best way to do that, the Pacers figured, was earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and so far, nobody has been able to touch Indiana. The Pacers have a 3½-game lead over Miami and Atlanta in the East.
Indiana dominated the glass, outrebounding Memphis 30-15 in the first half and finishing with a 45-32 advantage. The Pacers again relied on tight defense, which held Memphis (3-4) to a season-low point total and nearly 20 below its season scoring average (98.5).
The 23-year-old Stephenson, who is playing the best basketball of his career, finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, a career-high 12 assists and a mere one turnover. Roy Hibbert added five more blocks to his league-leading total (35).
Indiana could be making things even tougher for opponents soon, too. Vogel said before the game former All-Star Danny Granger, who once led the Pacers in scoring for five straight seasons, could return to practice as soon as Wednesday. Granger has not played this season because of a strained left calf.
• At the other end of the spectrum from Indiana, the Utah Jazz remained the league’s only winless team when it lost 100-81 to visiting Denver to plunge to 0-8.
• Jeremy Lin scored 31 points off the bench, Dwight Howard contributed 18 points and 24 rebounds, and the host Houston Rockets outlasted Toronto 110-104 in double overtime.
• Avery Bradley, a former player for Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, scored 24 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a 120-105 victory over visiting Orlando. Bradley made 10 of 15 shots from the field.
Rookie Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga and ex-Sonic Jeff Green each added 16 points for the Celtics.
• Blake Griffin had 25 points and 10 rebounds as the host Los Angeles Clippers edged Minnesota 109-107.
The Clippers opened the fourth quarter with a 14-7 run to build a 98-87 lead. Jamal Crawford, a Rainier Beach High School graduate, scored eight of his 18 points during that flurry.