"We are a tough basketball team, we know that we can play, we know that we can improve," George said. "We are having fun out there because we are getting to know each other better."
That's a scary thought, even for Stevens, who was hoping for a much happier homecoming.
The Celtics coach grew up in Zionsville, a suburb on the city's northwest side, and led nearby Butler to back-to-back national championship games before taking the Celtics job in July. During pregame introductions, he received a warm, polite reception from the home state crowd, which included his successor, Butler coach Brandon Miller, and his former athletic director, Barry Collier.
The Pacers defense wasn't nearly as welcoming. Avery Bradley led the Celtics with 13 points, while Jeff Green and Courtney Lee each scored 11. Nobody else reached double figures.
Stephenson was a showman all night, making nifty behind-the-back passes and at times dribbling wildly to shed defenders. So when he hit a 20-foot jumper after sending a Celtics defender sprawling on the ground early in the fourth quarter, he responded to the crowd's ovation by wiggling his hips.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel likes Stephenson for another reason.
"He's such a gifted passer and playmaker, he gives us a real edge," Vogel said.
Boston started well, taking a 15-10 lead after going on a 7-0 run. Things went downhill fast.
Indiana finished the first quarter on a 10-2 spurt to take a 20-17 lead.
After the Celtics rallied to tie the score at 23 with 8:49 left in the first half, Granger hit two 3-pointers to spur a 15-1 run that turned the game and gave Indiana a commanding 38-24 lead with 5:08 to play in the first half.
"We're not a team to make excuses," Jared Sullinger said. "Indiana just came out and kicked our behind. We just have to play better."
Notes: The Pacers have won three of the last four and five of the last seven in the series. ... The Celtics have played back-to-back games eight times this season and have now been swept five times. ... Twelve of Indiana's 22 wins have come by 10 or more points.