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Celtics 101, Pacers 86: Yep, Celitcs Are Good

The Boston Celtics continued their stroll through the regular season, methodically working their way past the Indiana Pacers, 101-86.

Before I discuss the Pacers, let me heap some praise on the Celtics. Wow! This is a far better team than I anticipated and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them play. Paul Pierce has been killing the Pacers for year all by himself. But tonight, he and Ray Allen took turns scoring at will and making life miserable for their defenders. KG is just an active, menacing presence on both ends of the court. When he steps out and hits the 19 footer, you just shake your head.

So are they championship material? Absolutely. Their ability to defend will carry them into June. The Pacers wanted to run but the Celtics beat them back down the court all night. Rajon Rondo heads a feisty team defensive effort that appears to have them feeding off each other. Honestly, a pleasure to watch.

As for the Pacers, they came out strong and maintained a solid effort throughout the game. They played solid defense, limiting the Celtics to 42.5 FG% which is 10% below their season average thus far.

The Pacers were strong on the glass out rebounding the Celts 47-42 and limiting the C's to only seven offensive rebounds.

So, the Pacers did the big things well -- defend, rebound, hustle, compete until the final buzzer. But their failure to take care of the little things gave the Celtics ample opportunity to seize the game.

22 turnovers, many caused by impatience due to the Celtics stingy defense, were critical when each possession was so critical.

35 fouls lead to a +18 free throw attempt differential favoring the Celtics. There were plenty of questionable call that went against the Pacers. Jermaine O'Neal reamains the only max contract player in the league that can't get a call. Still, Tinsley had a flagrant foul and should've had another earlier in the game that was not called. I'm sure it is frustrating at times, but the extra free throws add up.

The Pacers also missed several open looks. Good, solid, open looks were hard to come by, but the Pacers had enough to make this a tight game. They just couldn't get them to fall. Take away Danny Granger's nice shooting night (8-10 FG, 5-5 3FG) and the shooting percentage really drops.

Saras Diener continued his 3-ball drought missing three attempts that would've kept the Pacers close in the second quarter.

All those little things were glaring when the Pacers tried to make a late run. Kareem Rush hit a 3-ball with 5:30 to go to cut the lead to 11. The Pacers get the ball back and Kareem Rush missed a wide open three. Right man, right shot, just missed it.

The Pacers kept grinding and Jamaal Tinsley made a couple of runners to cut the lead to seven with four minutes to go. But, Tins missed a free throw, then back-to-back turnovers on bad passes by Rush and Granger allowed the C's to extend their lead again. O'Neal score, but then Tinsley draws his flagrant foul and follows that up with a turnover, and the Celts put the game on ice.

So, the Pacers will probably kick themselves for blowing some opportunities, but in reality they played pretty well. The Celtics are just a really strong team and it would've taken a special effort for the Pacers to win.

Next up: The Pacers fly to Washington, DC tonight for a rematch with the Wizards tomorrow night.