The Indiana Pacers came together defensively in the final two minutes of overtime against the Boston Celtics to escape with a 107-103 victory in first game back from their West Coast swing. Indiana watched as the Celtics opened up offensively late, hitting six three pointers in the fourth quarter and overtime to jump ahead 103-102 with just under two minutes remaining on an Evan Turner jumper.
From there, Indiana forced stops on Boston's next five possessions, including a game sealing block on Turner's go ahead layup with 15 seconds remaining from Roy Hibbert. Through plenty led up towards Indiana needing an extra five minutes to get away from the Celtics, the first three quarters of game action were a bit of an eyesore, with Indiana lumbering their way to a 65-60 lead.
The Pacers hit their first four shots of the fourth quarter to blow the lead open to 13 at 77-64, but Boston responded with an 15-4 run on alternating layups and three point shots that closed the gap to two. Indiana fell behind 90-89 with under 90 seconds remaining, pushing back into the lead before Avery Bradley put in a game tying three to force overtime, where Boston used a 7-2 run to move up 103-102 before Indiana's comeback.
The block from Hibbert was the rim protection Indiana lacked with him on the bench, making the activation of Ian Mahinmi a welcome sight for future contests in hopefully cleaning things up for the blue and gold. Hibbert led Indiana on both sides of the floor, scoring 19 points, putting up a double double with 11 rebounds. While it'd be easy to pile on Hibbert's 7-19 shooting, no one on the Pacers shot above 50% as Indiana slogged towards a 37% night from the floor.
Hibbert's block on Turner late was his fifth of the night, also totaling a team high four assists as the Pacers assisted on 21 of their 34 buckets. While Boston hit five threes in the fourth, the Pacers got a pair of big threes from Donald Sloan, who gave Indiana the 13-point cushion they needed to keep tonight's win from falling into a loss. C.J. Miles led the bench with 17 points, connecting on four of Indiana's nine three point field goals.
David West struggled almost the entire night offensively, but scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including 5-6 from the line on a night the Pacers held a healthy free throw advantage at 30-11, shooting 88% on 30-34 from the line. The free throw difference helped Indiana overcome an 11 shot deficit created by 17 turnovers that gave Boston 22 points.
C.J. Watson scored 15 in his 10th start of the season, hitting a pair of late buckets, one to put Indiana up 91-90 late in the fourth and a three pointer to open the overtime, when Indiana scored six points on the opening two possessions. Luis Scola also reached 15 points. Solomon Hill was a non-factor offensively, but a pair of fourth quarter buckets to slow down the Boston comeback proved crucial for the Pacers.
The Pacers return home proved a difficult one against a Celtics team short two players due to trades, but came away with the win despite their struggles against Boston in the second half. The Pacers are in the midst of five straight games where they play five teams below them in the standings, a rare sight this season, but one they need to perform well in if they hope to make a postseason push.
Indiana sit one game behind Miami for the 8th spot in the East at 15-23, and the next four games will create opportunities for Indiana to string together a series of wins, even with upcoming games against Detroit and Charlotte, two teams also working towards improving their own campaigns. The Pacers will play the second half of a back-to-back on the road tomorrow night against the Philadelphia 76ers, who at 4-6 in their last ten games are no longer the league's worst team, but sit at just 1-15 at home.