BOSTON — Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was hoping his team would turn up the defensive pressure in Friday night’s game against the Pacers.
The coach got his wish, and Boston ended a four-game losing streak with a 94-75 handling of Indiana, the first-place team in the Central Division.
The 75 points allowed marked a season-best for the Celtics, while the Pacers, whose two-game winning streak ended, managed to beat their previous low of 72.
Kevin Garnett, shifted back to center, scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being ejected for a Flagrant-2 foul with 8:24 left in the game; probably about two minutes before he would have been done for the night, anyway.
Rajon Rondo, still playing with a bruised hip, had 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Paul Pierce had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Jared Sullinger had seven points and 10 boards off the bench, but he fouled out for the second straight game.
David West (17.2) and Paul George (16.9), Indiana’s two-leading scorers, were each 4 for 18 from the floor, as the Pacers shot 31.8 percent overall and went just 4 for 17 from 3-point range.
Tyler Hansbrough, who entered the game averaging six points per game, came off the bench to lead the Pacers with 19 points in 23 minutes, while West (10 points) and Roy Hibbert (seven) both had 10 rebounds. George coming off a hit December and a huge game Wednesday night, had none points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The Celtics led by two five minutes into the second quarter but then ran off 11 straight points over a 1:25 span and the run grew to 17-4. Boston wound up leading by 12 at the half and then used another spurt to go up by 19 with 6:12 left in the third quarter. The lead was 20 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
In addition to still missing star Danny Granger, who still hasn’t played this season because of a knee injury, the Pacers were also without valuable guard George Hill, who missed his second straight game with a groin injury.
NOTES: Indiana’s Lance Stephenson hit a 3-pointer with 6:26 left in the first quarter and was then hit with a technical foul for taunting in the direction of the Boston bench. Pierce missed the free throw, the Celtics’ only attempt at the line in the quarter. … Brandon Bass was back in the starting lineup for the Celtics as Rivers reunited the starting lineup that was in place through the first two rounds of last year’s playoffs, before Avery Bradley was lost. The move sent Garnett back to center and Jason Collins to the bench. “We want to stay as big as possible, what we didn’t like with Jason in the (starting) lineup was — now we’re going to play him every night, and when he and Kevin were off the floor, we got small quickly,” Rivers said. “This way we can keep a big on the floor at all times.” … The Celtics visit the Hawks Saturday and Knicks Monday, while the Pacers open a three-game homestand against Milwaukee Saturday night. … The Celtics returned Kris Joseph back to the Development League, while fellow Syracuse rookie Fab Melo remained in town for concussion evaluation that won’t take place until next week. … Ready to face the No. 1 overall and top 3-point defense in the league, Rivers, whose team had gone six straight games without scoring 100 points, joked pre-game, “We should score 130 tonight with the way things are going, you just never know.”
Rockets 115, Bucks 101: James Harden scored 29 points, former Milwaukee starter Carlos Delfino added 22 and visiting Houston overcame an 18-point, second-quarter deficit to upend the Bucks.
Patrick Patterson and Toney Douglas added 18 points apiece and Omer Asik contributed 13 as the Rockets won for the eighth time in 10 games.
Brandon Jennings scored 16 points while Monta Ellis and Mike Dunleavy added 12 apiece for Milwaukee, which committed 19 of its season-worst 25 turnovers in the second half while losing its third consecutive contest.
Milwaukee had a 48-30 edge after a three-point play by John Henson with 5:54 left in the first half. Harden hit back-to-back baskets to end the half and pull Houston within 58-47, and the Rockets began the third quarter with a 19-2 surge to take a six-point advantage.
The Bucks trailed 95-90 with under seven minutes remaining before Patterson hit a 3-pointer and Harden knocked down two as part of a 13-0 run that boosted the lead to 18 with 4:12 to play.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Harden has scored 20 or more points in 15 consecutive games, including reaching 25 or more in each of the last 11 outings. … Milwaukee committed 10 turnovers and went 4-of-20 from the field in the third quarter, when it missed its first 11 shots and tallied just 14 points. … Delfino was 6-of-7 from 3-point range and the Rockets were 13-of-33 overall while Milwaukee was 6-of-14.
Bulls 96, Heat 89: Carlos Boozer collected 27 points and 12 rebounds and Joakim Noah added a double-double as visiting Chicago knocked off Miami.
Noah finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds and Nate Robinson scored 13 points off the bench for the Bulls, who dominated the lane. Chicago outrebounded the Heat 48-28 and outscored them 46-34 in the paint.
LeBron James, who missed practice with a bruised knee on Thursday, started and scored 30 points while Dwyane Wade added 22 for Miami, which dropped to 15-3 at home.
The Bulls held a nine-point lead after Marco Belinelli’s runner with 1:58 left but the Heat battled back, cutting it to 91-85 on Ray Allen’s 3-pointer 14 seconds later. They had a chance to make it a one-possession game when James was fouled on a clear path, but the superstar missed the second free throw and Chris Bosh turned the ball over on the ensuing possession.
Chicago took control in the third quarter, stretching a one-point halftime lead out to 75-66 when Belinelli hit a 3-pointer for the final score of the period.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Miami is 2-3 in its last five games, with the two wins coming in overtime. … The Bulls lost in both of their trips to Miami last season. … Chicago leading scorer Luol Deng was held to six points on 2-of-9 shooting while being guarded by James most of the night.