Sunday’s game between the Pacers and Celtics was already well out of hand when Pacers guard Lance Stephenson started showboating.
The most obvious example — beyond his staying in the blowout only to complete a triple-double — came when he crossed over Celtics guard Courtney Lee, then sank a jumper and proceeded to shimmy in place after the shot went through.
The Celtics weren’t thrilled after their 106-79 loss — their worst of the season — but they were especially unhappy with Stephenson’s actions.
“Of course,” Jeff Green said when asked if he was upset at how Stephenson acted. “That’s not basketball. He made great plays, but at the end of the day, make a great play and get back at the other end. We’ll see them again.”
Stephenson tried to defend himself.
“It just came with the flow of the game. I was trying to entertain the crowd. I was so much into the game, it just came out naturally,” he said after finishing with 12 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds, his third triple-double this season.
“I didn’t mean to do it, it just came with the flow of the game. I know for sure [Pacers coach Frank Vogel] is going to say something about it. I got to get ready for that. But when the crowd’s into it, I try to do something to get the crowd hyped.”
Stephenson continued: “If it comes out in the flow of the game, it happens, I don’t go into the game saying, ‘When I make this shot I’m going to do this dance.’ It just comes out. I’m surprised when it happens. When I make a shot, sometimes I’m surprised. I’m like, ‘Wow.’ So I’m like congratulating myself.”
Lee had said that he was frustrated with his playing time before Sunday’s game, but coach Brad Stevens said he spoke to Lee about it.
“Being frustrated is part of it,” Stevens said. “I get that. I’m not going to overdo that. And we talked about it. He was frustrated, that’s OK. He’s going to play a big role for us and he knows that.”
After the undersized Celtics were outscored, 50-22, in the paint by the taller-than-average Pacers, they were left searching for answers.
“Teams have just outscored us,” forward Brandon Bass said. “I mean, there ain’t no science to it. You get outscored in the paint. Like we outscore teams in the paint when we win; when we lose somebody outscores us in some sort of way. That’s just basketball.”
The 28-point margin was the second-largest for the Celtics this season in being outscored in the paint. They were outscored by 30 in that category in a blowout loss at Houston Nov. 19.
But, in general, the Celtics were searching for answers related to their defense, which didn’t show up at all against the Pacers.
Entering the game, the Celtics had lost two straight after blowing huge leads in the first half. And now they head into the Christmas break on a three-game losing streak.
“We had been playing well,” Bass said. “I think we’ll play better. But now that we know what we can do, just have to bring it to the next level. I think it’s a night where, we face adversity or things aren’t going well for us as a group, we have to find a way to change that during the course of the game. And I think that’s the next step for us.”
What do the Celtics, who resume play Saturday against Cleveland at TD Garden, need to do to get back on track?
“We just have to bust our humps,” Gerald Wallace said. “Guys gotta understand what we gotta do, we gotta play from inside-out on both ends, offensively and defensively, and go from there.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.