INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Bynum provided the energy boost Indiana needed early. David West delivered all the big shots late.
Together the Pacers’ tag-team inside tandem simply overpowered the Celtics.
West scored 24 points Tuesday night, and Bynum finished with eight points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes, helping the Pacers pull away from Boston, 94-83.
“(West) is our backbone. He’s the one that lifts us and he’s our best late-game playmaker and shot maker,” Paul George of the Pacers said. “We always rely on David and he always digs us out of holes.”
The Pacers desperately needed West’s closing punch after losing a season-high four straight.
They also needed Bynum’s presence.
Indiana played without backup center Ian Mahinmi (bruised left rib) and backup point guard C.J. Watson (sprained right elbow), then lost George with two fouls just seven minutes into the game.
George wasn’t the only having trouble Tuesday.
Indiana’s other big perimeter shooter, Lance Stephenson, went 4 of 12 from the field and was shut out in the first half. Starting point guard George Hill appeared to hurt his right hand in the fourth quarter and center Roy Hibbert finished the game despite a hard fourth-quarter fall.
Yet the re-emerging West and Bynum, who played for the first time in almost 2½ months, made up for those problems.
“I felt great. I couldn’t do anything wrong today,” Bynum said. “All the rebounds came my way. I just grabbed them.”
The win gave Indiana a 1½-game lead over Miami in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers also became the first team to win 30 home games and are still a league-best 30-4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
While West stole the show on the court, Bynum created the most buzz off of it.
For six weeks, the Pacers waited to see him take the court. The 7-foot former All-Star drew a rousing ovation when he entered with 4:22 left in the first quarter and by the time the period ended, already had four points, five rebounds and one assist.
Jared Sullinger led Boston with 17 points and nine rebounds, Kris Humphries added 15 points but it wasn’t enough to win a third straight as the Celtics lost more ground in their chase to make the playoffs.
And even though the Celtics twice got within one point of the Pacers in the fourth quarter, first-year coach Brad Stevens contended the Pacers’ recent struggles were nothing compared to what most other NBA teams face on a nightly basis.
“They’re 47-17, right? They ain’t got no troubles,” said Stevens, who left nearby Butler to take the Boston job last summer. “I know we’ve got to make a story out of something but it’s really not. And I’ve lived it on the other side where you’re almost over cynical to a really good team and that becomes hard, too. The challenge becomes to continue on and not get too down or too high and they’re good at it.”
The Celtics got within 69-61 after three, closed to 69-66 early in the fourth and then got as close as 77-76 when Sullinger scored with 6:44 left.
“We finally got a couple of baskets without interference late in the game,” Stevens said. “But those are hard to come by against these guys.”
The Celtics are 2-14 on the first night of back-to-back games this season.