Celtics 86 Pacers 72: Offense on Empty as Pacers Stumble Against Celtics

April 07, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard George Hill (3) tries to maintain control of the ball against the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

The Indiana Pacers were on the second night of their fourth straight back-to-back set, and while they’ve done a tremendous job to dig and not use the overwhelming number of games recently as any excuse to take a night off. For all the good will the team has built up, however, tonight may have been that night they just didn’t have enough in the tank, falling short of the Boston Celtics.

From the get-go, it was easy to see last night’s win against OKC may have taken a lot out of them as the Pacers came out a bit sluggish and a bit turnover prone. Passes weren’t crisp enough, and Boston benefited from it. The turnovers would be a huge problem the entire night, as a pesky Boston defense wasn’t going to give anything to Indiana. David West and Roy Hibbert led the way early for the Pacers to relieve the early offensive struggles, but it wasn’t nearly enough when the Pacers caught themselves in poor offensive possession after poor offensive possession.

Indiana had been able to stay involved in the game through their defense. When they played well, they held Boston on most possessions, but the Celtics were able to make them pay on possessions where they weren’t keyed in. Boston used those lapses to fuel a 23-4 run to put them up 17 while Indiana couldn’t find a single point, settling into a 7 minute scoring drought to start the second quarter, missing 11 consecutive shots.

Even though the Pacers could only muster up a 3-19 shooting effort in the quarter, they made their living at the free throw line, chipping away at Boston’s lead, stepping up the defensive intensity to cut the lead to 10 at the break. Things didn’t pick up much for the Pacers in the third quarter. Shots were chipping the paint off of the front iron, scoring only four points in the first half of the third. But the defensive effort kept Indiana around, and kept the game within striking distance despite there being nothing even resembling an offensive game from the Pacers.

Danny Granger and Leandro Barbosa started to give the Pacers some offensive life towards the end of the third, as the Pacers built an 11-2 run to trim the lead to 6. The Celtics were able to tread water themselves through the play of Paul Pierce, who had 13 in the quarter to do everything for Boston offensively. Kevin Garnett began to take some of the scoring load himself in the fourth quarter, grabbing six quick points to keep an active Pacers second unit at bay.

Indiana’s attempts at a comeback were almost a polar opposite of last night’s win against Oklahoma City when it seemed any offensive push the Pacers had was immediately responded to by Pierce and the Celtics. Danny Granger tried to get things going, but there was nothing going for Indiana when it came to turning offense into defense in the fourth quarter.

While the Pacers came up short tonight, they displayed a ton of positives this week to soften the blow of taking on an L to another playoff opponent. They just didn’t have the energy necessary to pull the game out, and it showed with the way the Celtics closed the game.

After the jump, a bit more on a game that fell as short as all of Indiana’s baskets:

The Pacers struggled when it came to getting some effort going, and it showed, with them shooting 35% on the night, a number that was actually considerably higher than the 32% they set at for a good portion of the game. The starters, who put in their all to win against the Thunder last night, didn't get any help from the bench tonight, who totaled 12 points on 4-21 shooting, with Leandro Barbosa the only offensive spark. There was plenty of hustle, just not a lot of plays being made from the Jekyll and Hyde bench.

Greg Steimsma played a huge game for the Celtics tonight, and helped set the tone early in the game on the defensive side, relieving the star power of Boston. Indiana struggled around the basket against the Celtics, and despite a strong start from the Indiana bigs, there wasn't a strong enough push throughout the game. Roy Hibbert didn't have much of a game offensively following the play in the first quarter, but did grab 17 rebounds on the evening.

Three Pacers reached double figures. Darren Collison put in 13, David West seemed to have enough going for 16 on 8-10 shooting, and Danny Granger had his first somewhat poor night in a long time, but still offered enough offensively to put up 20. There were some defensive issues for Granger on Pierce. In the end, it was a disappointing loss, but not really a surprising one given the recent workload and the mental fatigue in holding off the surging Thunder in their fourth quarter comeback last night.

Indiana has one day off before they host the Toronto Raptors on Monday. With a minute to catch their breath, hopefully they can get themselves back into the win column then as the schedule lightens up considerably from here. There are still a lot of positives for an Indiana team that will still be in third after tonight, so there's no sense in letting one loss overtake that.

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