Late game meltdown seals Pacers loss in frustrating fashion

USA TODAY Sports

Indiana lost 83-81, going scoreless in the final four and a half minutes.

Up 81-72 with four and a half minutes left, the Indiana Pacers had responded to an awful start in the fourth quarter and a Boston Celtics team down just one with an 11-2 run over the course of two minutes. Indiana hit three three pointers in the stretch, hitting just three the entire game prior. In some sense, maybe it was fool's gold to expect that shot to guide you to the win, but it wasn't just that shot, it was every one after that betrayed Indiana in the midst of an 11-0 collapse that led Boston to the game winning layup with 0.5 seconds to go in the game.

The Pacers finished 4-20 in the fourth quarter from the floor to help aid the collapse, but something of an unexpected finish culminated for a Pacers team that was in control of the game, even looking to put the finishing touches on another W just to fall at the very (very) end. What about that? It leaves you sick to your stomach losing games in this fashion, but against a team like Boston, they know how to take advantage when you don't.

After Indiana's 11-2 run, it seemed as if they had responded to their own struggles and were set to cruise, but were forced into tough shots throughout the quarter, taking them out of the game completely. No one was consistent enough to overcome their team-wide issues. Everyone missed shots, no one initiated anything, and despite a couple of nice defensive plays, they couldn't get enough stops to make up for not scoring a single point on the other end.

No starter shot 50% or above, the team as a whole just 36.4% and 6-27 from three point range, all numbers well in line with averages against this Celtics team. It felt like an anomaly to some degree, but this is a team that has given Indiana fits for years defensively, and great defense only matters when you have at least a little offense. Roy Hibbert started the game off right, 12 first quarter points, and dominating the glass, but was removed entirely from the game after that, finishing with 12 & 12 with six blocks.

No one was particularly special. Lance Stephenson had some exceptional moments pushing the tempo and played huge in the third quarter as part of his 12 point, five steal night, but shot just 6-15, a number of those misses around the basket. Paul George led Indiana with 16 points, seven rebounds, and three steals, but was just 7-22 and 2-9 from deep. George Hill had eight of Indiana's 11 in their fourth quarter run (as part of 13 total for the quarter), but was limited other than that. David West had 11 & 16, but some misses late, and his gamble on the game's final defensive possession aided in Jeff Green hitting the layup.

The bench had 16 points to bring it full circle, but a little here and there from Ian Mahinmi being the only real note from the bench except for Orlando Johnson returning, somewhat, to his recent form, scoring seven on 3-9 shooting. The starters played pretty standard overall games, which is certainly fine on most nights when someone steps up with some key points and a slightly bigger night. When Hibbert was taken out of the game, no one else stepped up for the game to take his place. Guys did well in spurts, but Indiana needed more than spurts tonight.

Heading into the game, this was the 2-7 matchup in the East between Indiana and Boston. Boston, even with their injuries, will certainly be the toughest matchup for a higher seed (assuming they don't jump up the rankings themselves), and Indiana saw why tonight. It was a C- kind of night when Indiana needed someone to B- it up. Indiana will drop to third with the loss and will head on the road to face the Orlando Magic on Friday, who also lost in the final second to Miami. The Pacers aren't a great matchup for Orlando, but will need to grab a win to avoid heading into Sunday's against Miami on a two game skid.

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