Move on. Nothing to see here. After a bit of a slow start, the Indiana Pacers turned it up at both ends and killed the struggling Brooklyn Nets 103-86 to pick up their third consecutive blowout win and maintain their 1.5-game lead in the East over the Miami Heat (who really should have lost to the Hawks but got bailed out on some questionable calls in the 4th and in OT).
Lance Stephenson pelvic thrusted his way to a career high 26 points on 10-16 shooting to go along with 7 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals in his hometown, and Paul George had the same stat line with one less rebound and three more field goal attempts. This was the first game for the Nets since finding out that center Brook Lopez was going to be out for the rest of the season with a broken foot, but the Pacers didn't dominate inside with Hibbert as expected as the big fella was plagued with some early foul trouble. By the time Hibbert got into a groove the game was a blowout that extended the Pacers' lead to as much as 24 points.
Paul Pierce had his first scoreless game since his rookie season, going 0-7 from the field before being ejected for a flagrant 2 after clotheslining George Hill on a fast break layup. Hill actually got straight back up and didn't milk the blow like "certain other" players on a rival team might.
Danny Granger had a scoreless one too, going 0-7 and looked awful out there. On defense he is trying but appears to lack quickness and his reaction time is slow, and on offense he doesn't even attempt to do anything except stay around the three-point line and wait for dish outs. Don't be too concerned though as this is expected. Granger is still low on stamina and confidence, and this was, after all, the second night of a back-to-back.
The Nets played the Pacers tough the first time these two teams met, but this time it's clear that one team is on a roll and the other is in shambles. I expected it to be a little closer because the Pacers on the back end of a back-to-back (3 of their losses this season have been on the second night of back-to-backs) and I thought the Nets would be energized to prove they could win without Lopez. The 23-5 Pacers will have a long Christmas break as they won't play again until Saturday, also against the Nets, who will have two games to play in between, including on Christmas day.
Meanwhile, I'd like to put to rest any suggestions that the Pacers or Celtics are considering a trade that will send Danny Granger and George Hill (plus their 2014 first round pick) to the Celtics in return for Rajon Rondo, who is recovering from a torn ACL. Apart from the fact that it's completely unsubstantiated, the trade can't work salary-wise (Granger + Hill = $22 million, Rondo makes $12 million) and the Pacers won't even have a first round pick in the next draft as it was dealt to Phoenix via the Luis Scola trade. (It's technically a lottery-protected pick, but do you see the Pacers missing the playoffs?)
I've heard variations of the trade where Gerald Wallace's $10 million contract is thrown in to make the salaries work, but let's just stop the silliness right now. Though George Hill has been a little disappointing this season (failing to make strides like Paul George and Lance Stephenson) he's a key cog for the team and any trade that takes back salary effectively means giving up on Lance.
Even if the numbers could somehow work it's hard to see the Pacers pulling the trigger. Not to say the Pacers wouldn't love Rondo but in a year when they are going all in it's hard envisioning Bird endangering the chemistry of the starting unit for an enigmatic guy coming back from a major injury.