INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (AP) – The Indiana Pacers’ bench didn’t provide much in Saturday night’s 97-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
Danny Granger, Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Ian Mahinmi combined to shoot just 4 of 18 for 16 points. None played more than Watson’s 18:33.
“We’ve got to figure out something to get a better rhythm with that group,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
Maybe the arrival of Andrew Bynum will help.
Hours after the Pacers signed the free-agent center for the rest of the season, Indiana overcame an early deficit and held off the Nets to improve to an NBA-best 22-2 at home.
Bynum wasn’t in the arena. Vogel said before the game that the mercurial big man had returned to Cleveland and hadn’t had a chance to meet his new teammates yet.
But Indiana’s All-Star starter, Paul George, isn’t concerned about Bynum’s reputation.
“I think it increases our chances [of winning a championship],” George said. “A lot of teams have three centers. With us only having two, him being one of the best ones out there, it’s a no-brainer to go after a talented guy like that.”
The Pacers (36-10) eked out the win despite a season-high 24 turnovers that Brooklyn converted into 36 points.
“We didn’t play a great game,” Vogel said. “We’ve got to get under control.”
George and Roy Hibbert both had 20 points for the Pacers, who swept the four-game season series.
Lance Stephenson, left out of the All-Star game despite leading the NBA in triple-doubles, added 14 points for Indiana. David West had 17 points and George Hill scored 10.
“We’ve got to be a little more patient. We’re swinging for the fences a little too much in terms of trying to make some tight interior passes as opposed to making the simple play,” said West, who had a game-high seven assists.
Shaun Livingston scored a season-high 24 points for the Nets, who couldn’t hold an early seven-point lead against the Eastern Conference leaders.
Joe Johnson, an All-Star selection, spent much of the night dueling with Stephenson and scored 16 for Brooklyn, which has lost three straight since starting January with 11 wins in 12 games.
“We play 82 games through the season and you’re going to have your ups and downs, and hopefully you’re ready come playoff time,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said.
Stephenson, unhappy he was left off the All-Star team, had words at times with the Brooklyn bench.
“I could care less if it’s personal,” Johnson said. “He needs to talk it over with the coaches. I’ve got nothing to do with it.”
Paul Pierce scored 15 points, Deron Williams added 13 and Kevin Garnett had 12 for the Nets, who were coming off a 120-95 loss at home to Oklahoma City on Friday night.
“The guys were active tonight and we got our hands on some balls and we turned them over,” Kidd said. “We didn’t capitalize as well as we wanted, but definitely an improvement from what we did the night before.”
West scored seven points in the fourth quarter, hitting five of six free throws to help the Pacers hold on.
“David always comes through when we need him most,” George said. “He shines in those moments. He really picks us up in those moments.”
Brooklyn tied the score at 76 on Livingston’s two free throws with 10 minutes left, but Hibbert converted a three-point play and Indiana led the rest of the way.
Livingston pulled Brooklyn to 85-83 with 5:10 to play, but after an extended Indiana possession, Stephenson hit two free throws after being fouled by Johnson, then Hibbert slammed home a dunk.
The Nets wouldn’t go away, though. Hill hit one of two free throws with 18.6 seconds to play for a 94-90 lead before Johnson’s 3-pointer with 8 seconds left made it 94-93.
West then hit two free throws, rebounded Pierce’s missed 3 and hit one more free throw to make it 97-93. Williams hit a 3 with 0.4 seconds left, and the game ended after Scola threw the inbounds pass off Pierce’s back.
“The one thing we said was, `Don’t throw it out of bounds,”‘ Vogel said. “We said, `Throw it anywhere where it hits them or us.”‘
Brooklyn took advantage of a sluggish start by the Pacers to lead by seven points three times in the first quarter, the last on Johnson’s short jumper that put the Nets ahead 13-6 with 7:28 to play in the period.
The Pacers took their first lead at 19-18 on George’s 3-pointer. Livingston hit two jumpers and Johnson added another to put Brooklyn back ahead 24-19, but Indiana closed the quarter on a 6-0 run to lead 25-24.
Neither team could build a lead greater than four points in the second quarter, and the lead changed hands six times, with five ties. George’s driving layup with 6 seconds to play gave the Pacers a 46-45 halftime lead.
The Pacers outscored Brooklyn 12-2 over the first 3:36 of the third quarter, building a 58-47 lead and prompting a timeout by Kidd.
Brooklyn responded with a 19-9 run to pull to 67-66. Indiana scored the next five points, but Alan Anderson hit a 3-pointer, Mason Plumlee made one of two free throws and the Nets trailed just 72-70 entering the fourth.