INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Darren Collison is well on his way to becoming a fan favorite in Indiana.
The team's top offseason pickup had 15 points, four assists and four steals in his first regular-season home game since he was acquired in a trade, and the Pacers beat the Philadelphia 76ers 99-86 on Saturday night.
Collison's quickness created problems for Philadelphia from the start, and the point guard provided the play of the game in the third quarter after he stepped into a passing lane to start a fast break.
Collison eyed the basket, then saw Lou Williams move in to challenge. Collison rose up and dunked on him to give the Pacers a 68-56 lead. The fans roared in approval, and Collison put his left hand up to his ear to urge them on.
``I just tried to make a play,' he said. ``I didn't think it was going in at first. It was the right play at the right time and, you know, we're trying to make statements out here.'
Indiana remained comfortably ahead for the rest of the game. As the seconds ticked away late in the fourth quarter, the crowd rose to give the Pacers a standing ovation. It was a rare sight at Conseco Fieldhouse, where fans have been hesitant to trust a team that has been dogged in recent years by off-the-court issues and injuries in a slow-moving rebuilding effort.
Saturday's effort offered signs that team president Larry Bird's project might be coming together. Danny Granger scored 22 points, Mike Dunleavy had 16 and Roy Hibbert added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Pacers, who were coming off a win at Charlotte.
``I think this is good for a team this young to be sitting 2-1 after the first week,' Collison said. ``We just need to continue to work.'
Lou Williams scored all 18 of his points in the first half for the Sixers, who have lost their first three games under new coach Doug Collins. Elton Brand had 12 points and 10 rebounds but shot 5-for-16 from the field.
Collins said his most important job is to change the culture of the team, and he expects that will take time.
``We have to break a lot of losing habits,' Collins said. ``I told the guys after the game that there is not one guy in this room who has a winning record in the NBA as a pro. Are we going to change? That's my job, to get it done.'
The Pacers opened the third quarter with a 13-2 run to take a 64-53 lead, highlighted by a reverse layup and three-point play by Granger. The Pacers held the 76ers to 1-for-8 shooting during that stretch.
Indiana continued to give the crowd plenty to cheer about. T.J. Ford found Josh McRoberts cutting to the basket, and the forward cocked the ball behind his head, took off from the edge of the paint and dunked on rookie Evan Turner to give the Pacers a 76-64 lead.
``We had so much adrenaline going through us,' Granger said. ``When you get that type of momentum, for the team that's on the road, it's really hard to overcome that. Most importantly, the thing was, we backed those up with defensive plays. It wasn't just on the offensive end.'
Philadelphia led 36-23 early in the second quarter, but the Pacers rallied and went ahead late in the first half. Thaddeus Young made a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to give the 76ers the lead, and Ford responded a 10-footer with 0.3 seconds left that tied it at 51 heading into the break.
``It's like the same old movie,' Collins said. ``We had a 13-point lead, and we had a horrible stretch. It's not our defense, it's our offense. We try to do too much on our own. Turn the ball over. Bad shots. They run out and score.'
Indiana grabbed the momentum by stepping up on defense. The Pacers held Philadelphia to 35 points in the second half.
``There was a lull, and we reminded the guys that we're at our best when we pressure the basketball, and then we're running and putting pressure on them by pushing the tempo,' Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. ``It was a discussion every timeout tonight. I think it's a key to our season.'
NOTES: Pacers F Jeff Foster was inactive. O'Brien said it was for matchup purposes. ... Turner drew a technical foul in the second quarter. ... Philadelphia's Jason Kapono started the first two games, but did not play Saturday. He was active, and wasn't on the injury report.
The Associated Press News Service
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