After two high-octane wins over the New York Knicks, where the buckets came early and often with little resistance, the Indiana Pacers were staggered by a stout defensive effort from the Boston Celtics.
Oh yeah, defense.
The Celtics pressured passing lanes and contested jump shots to slow down and frustrate the Pacers before locking up the win, 92-80. This game was a whole different beast compared to the last two games. Four, really, when you consider Minnesota and Toronto didn't exactly lock up the Pacers. The Pacers just vapor locked themselves in those games.
The Pacers actually gave as good as the got in early in the game tonight, ending the first quarter with a 20-15 lead. But the fouls were already mounting and accounted for several of those early stops by the Pacers. Foul shots would eventually be the difference in this one with the C's taking advantage of a differential that had them 26 for 33 from the line compared to the Pacers 9-13.
Those final numbers don't tell the whole story, though because the Pacers were finally given a few call after the game was in the double-digit grasp of the home team. At one point, Boston held a 30-5 FTA differential. That's life on the road against an elite team in the NBA.
The Celtics put the game away at the line, but they took control in the second quarter in large part to Jeff Green's play off the bench. Green scored 14 of his 17 first-half points in the second quarter to wipe out an equally solid first half off the bench for Josh McRoberts who went to the break with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
But a couple of old pros jump started a sluggish TD Garden late in the second quarter. In less than a minute, Ray Allen (2) and Paul Piercecombined to knock down three 3-point field goals, giving the Celtics their first double-digit lead which the Pacers were never able to overcome.
After the jump, plenty of notes from the loss including a market-correction game for Tyler Hansbrough.
- After scoring 59 points in the last two games and making 8 of 12 jumpers from 15 to 20 feet last night, Tyler Hansbrough couldn't get his shot going all night. The heavy minutes last night along with a defensive player in the vicinity had most of Hansbrough's misses coming up short off the front rim. Kevin Garnett and Big Baby Davis put Tyler through his paces at both ends, so credit is due the opponent. If there is any positive to take, Hans started the game 1 for 11 from the field but still finished up with a double-double including 10 points and 11 rebounds. As horrible, off games go, that's not so bad.
- Speaking of rebounds, the Pacers strong effort in the face of frustrating results was most evident on the glass. The Pacers owned the rebound differential 49 to 36 including 19 offfensive rebounds. But the second chance points were paltry as the Celtics interior defense held up strong all night. At one point, the Pacers had 3 points off of their first 14 offensive rebounds. Ugh.
- Danny Granger knocked down a few big shots as the Pacers tried to mount a few rallies but overall struggled to get anything substantive going whle the C's kept tabs on him at all times. Granger finished with 15 points and only 4 free throw attempts despite his best effort. After Jeff Green raked his arm on a layup attempt in the fourth quarter with no call, Granger finally lost it and shared his thoughts with Violet Palmer earning him a much-deserved T. Somebody had to do it.
- Darren Collison had a nice game going early, but had to sit out for an extended time in the first half to have a gash over his left eye stitched up. DC returned and finished with 10 points, 9 assists and only 1 turnover.
- Roy Hibbert was never a factor getting into early foul trouble and only playing 23 minutes to finish with 6 points and 7 rebounds. He was never in anything resembling a flow and the only hope is that he leaves this game on the parquet floor and doesn't drag its mental remnants to the Fieldhouse for Friday's game.
- Josh McRoberts quickly picked up the slack for Hansbrough's off-game. J-Mac finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists including a nice fast break off a defensive rebound when he took the board and pushed the ball up the floor before dropping off an pass to Darren Collison for an easy layup. He seemed to relish matching up with former Pacer, Troy Murphy and certainly gave a strong effort all night.
- Paul George had his shot going and played a strong game. He finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds but also had 3 steals and a blocked shot.
- Speaking of Murph, he warmed up the St. Patty's Day crowd in Boston with 6 points late in the game including a reverse dunk on a drive throug the lane.
- Obviously a tough game for the Pacers shooting 38% and facing a big foul differential, but there were no hints of a let down or letting up late. They have to absorb this loss and bring back another solid effort against the Bulls on Friday. If they can bring some made shots along for the ride, as well, it should be an entertaining game.