BOSTON — Paul George has been on a solid run offensively. He takes more pride, though, in what he's giving his team defensively.
"It's how I made my name in this league, wanting to guard the best player or match up against the best player," George said. "That's what I do. It's fun to me. I don't take it as it's going to drain me or tire me out. It energizes me when I can get a stop on the best player. It gets me going when I can get a stop against the best guy on the other team."
George, who had averaged 31.7 points in the last three games, fell short of his third 30-point effort in four games. This is coming after he missed most of last season with a compound fracture of both bones in his lower right leg when he landed awkwardly while playing for the U.S. National team.
"He's been fantastic. What nobody's talking about is his defense," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "He's putting up some big numbers offensively, but every time we put him up on a top guy, that guy just gets cooled down very quickly. That's why he's one of the best two-way players in the NBA. He's showing that he's back."
C.J. Miles had 17 points and Monta Ellis added 13 for the Pacers, who posted their fifth win in six games.
"There's a reason Paul George is Paul George," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "I think that that's a great credit to him. He gets every most difficult assignment, he scores twice in the post, and you change matchups and try somebody else, and then he scores again and you change it again."
Evan Turner led Boston with 20 points, while Isaiah Thomas had 14 and Jared Sullinger scored 11 with 11 rebounds. The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Celtics.
Boston was just 4 for 24 on 3-point attempts.
The Celtics sliced it to 90-87 on Turner's turnaround along the right baseline with 7:28 to play, but the Pacers scored the next eight points to take control.
Boston had a few turnovers late in the game that squashed any comeback hopes.
"We didn't take care of the ball," Turner said. "I think we kind of rushed a little bit. I think we kind of did a few of them back-to-back-to-back."
George triggered the run with a jumper from the top of the key and followed with one from the lane. Thomas then turned the ball over and Ellis had a fast-break layup. Ian Mahinmi closed the spree with a reverse layup.
George hit consecutive 3s during an 11-0 run midway into the third, helping the Pacers to an 81-74 lead after three quarters.
Boston went to the free throw line 19 times in the third, making just 12. The Celtics' final 10 points of the quarter came from the free throw line, but they made only six of their 20 shots from the field in the quarter. The Pacers hit 10 of 18.
Pacers: George was whistled for a technical in the third quarter. ... The 6-foot-11 Mahinmi was fouled almost every time he got the ball in a good post-up spot in the opening half. He went 3 for 8 from the line. ... F/C Myles Turner left the game with a sprained left thumb after playing only 1 minute.
Celtics: G Marcus Smart returned after missing the previous three games with a sprained left big toe, but G Avery Bradley didn't play after leaving Tuesday's win at Milwaukee with a bruised lower left leg. ... Stevens had a simple explanation why his bench has outplayed the starters many times so far this season. "We have a lot of even guys, so when we go to our bench there's not a huge drop-off, if any," he said. "Most teams there is a little."
DON"T FORGET HIM
Vogel doesn't think point guard George Hill gets enough credit on defense.
"George Hill doesn't ever get mentioned as one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA — and I think that's a crock," he said.
Pacers: Host Minnesota on Friday.
Celtics: Host Atlanta on Friday.