By Mike Wells
Not even a field-goal drought or another starter going down could stop the Indiana Pacers from doing something that’s taken them nearly a year to accomplish.
The Pacers picked up their third straight victory Wednesday night when they held off the pesky Golden State Warriors 108-94 at Conseco Fieldhouse. It’s their first three-game winning streak since Nov. 8-12 last year.
“I think our guys have shown that they’ll compete for 48 minutes,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “We lost our wind a little bit. We started to turn the ball over, which allowed them to get out on their break, but our guys did what was necessary to get a win.”
The Pacers will try to make it four in a row for the first time since the end of the 2007-08 season when they host the Boston Celtics on Saturday. They are back to .500 now after opening the season with three straight losses.
“We’re going to make it four against Boston,” forward Danny Granger said before quickly correcting himself and saying they plan to “try” to make it four in a row.
It didn’t take long — less than five minutes — for the Pacers to be hit with another injury. Starting point guard T.J. Ford went out early in the first quarter with back spasms.
But as they’ve shown during this winning streak, the Pacers simply insert another player and keep on going.
Veteran Earl Watson, who has started 156 games in his career, stepped in and had 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in 35 minutes.
“At first it was kind of an awkward situation, not knowing how Ford was doing,” Watson said. “But I knew I had to get into the flow of the game no matter what and take leadership on the court.”
The Pacers shot 52 percent from the field, including 63 percent on 3-pointers, and closed the first half on a 9-0 run to take a 17-point lead.
Granger, who has struggled shooting from behind the 3-point line, scored 17 of his game-high 31 points in the first half. He also grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.
Center Roy Hibbert fell a rebound short of his fourth straight double-double when he finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Rookie Tyler Hansbrough and Brandon Rush had 11 points each.
Granger was able to find an offensive rhythm because he went from camping out behind the 3-point line to attacking the basket and pulling up for midrange jumpers.
“I think Danny moved and he also passed well, especially in the first half,” O’Brien said. “He found his teammates, scored, distributed the ball, rebounded. He played a very, very solid brand of basketball.”
What looked like an easy victory — a 19-point lead early in the fourth quarter — changed when the Pacers started turning the ball over.
The Warriors took advantage of 13 straight missed field goals by the Pacers to get as close as seven points. The Pacers also had five turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Corey Maggette led Golden State with 21 points off the bench.
The Pacers’ field goal drought, which lasted more than seven minutes, came to an end when Hibbert put back Rush’s missed dunk attempt with 2:25 left the game.
“In the second half we just did not bring it on the defensive end or take care of the basketball,” O’Brien said. “That’s a credit to Golden State because they upped the pressure and we stopped moving.”
Percentages: FG .402, FT .667. 3-Point Goals: 4-15, .267 (Law 1-1, Maggette 1-1, Jackson 1-2, Morrow 1-2, C.Watson 0-1, Curry 0-2, Randolph 0-2, Azubuike 0-4). Team Rebounds: 14. Team Turnovers: 14 (16 pts). Blocked Shots: 7 (Azubuike 2, Ellis 2, Randolph 2, Jackson). Turnovers: 13 (Curry 3, Ellis 3, Azubuike 2, Jackson 2, Law, Maggette, Moore). Steals: 10 (Randolph 3, Morrow 2, Azubuike, Curry, Jackson, Maggette, C.Watson). Technical Foul: Randolph, 4:39 fourth.
Percentages: FG .447, FT .735. 3-Point Goals: 7-14, .500 (E.Watson 3-3, Rush 2-4, Granger 2-7). Team Rebounds: 6. Team Turnovers: 18 (21 pts). Blocked Shots: 12 (D.Jones 4, Granger 2, Hibbert 2, Rush 2, Hansbrough, S.Jones). Turnovers: 18 (Granger 4, Hibbert 4, D.Jones 4, Head 2, S.Jones 2, E.Watson 2). Steals: 5 (E.Watson 3, Granger, Rush). Technical Fouls: Granger, 4:39 fourth; D.Jones, 3:13 fourth.
A–10,682 (18,165). T–2:17. Officials–Marc Davis, Matt Boland, Eric Dalen.
Additional Facts Celtics at Pacers
7 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports Indiana