The Indiana Pacers had a familiar look to them in their latest loss to the Boston Celtics, looking a step slow in every single aspect of the game, dropping their second straight and making a postseason berth increasingly unlikely with Indiana now 11th place in the East, 2 1/2 games out of the 8th seed.
Indiana struggled out of the gate, but managed to keep the game close thanks to cold Boston shooting, though Indiana wasn't able to make much headway thanks to their own shooting struggles. Rodney Stuckey would draw Indiana to within a point at 17-16, but Boston responded, scoring the final five of the quarters to take a 22-16 lead. Tyler Zeller lit up Roy HIbbert and the Pacers, scoring 11 in the first quarter, forcing Hibbert to the bench with ineffectiveness on 0-4 shooting.
The downward trend continued with the Pacers falling behind by double figures early in the second with Boston finding easy buckets in transition to help build the lead. C.J. Watson helped push Indiana back into contention, drawing them to within four at 41-37 late in the second, but Indiana subsequently surrendered nine straight to Boston, putting Indiana in a 50-39 hole heading into the break.
The Pacers actually found some life in the third quarter, but not before they fell behind 18 points to open the quarter, leaving them to chip away throughout the remainder of the quarter, cutting the lead down to six heading into the fourth quarter. Indiana was able to keep the game at six for reasonable stretches in the fourth, but not once got a stop after cutting it to six, eventually allowing Boston to blow the game open in the second half of the fourth.
Though the scoreboard suggested Indiana had opportunities, the game was never really in doubt as Boston effectively cruised towards a 100-87 victory. The Celtics outscored Indiana 19-9 in fast break points, a decided advantage in helping keep Boston in control of the game. Indiana didn't help their cause much by shooting 13-23 from the free throw line, giving away valuable points despite shooting five extra free throws.
Even individually, there wasn't much to take from the player's efforts tonight, despite another big night from George Hill. Hill had 21 points on 9-11 shooting, with six rebounds and six assists, scoring 15 points in the second half. But it proved another wasted individual effort with little support from the rest of his team. Rodney Stuckey had 16 points in a nice bounce back game, but was the only double figure scorer off the bench, with Boston topping Indiana 44-30 in bench production.
In fact, the two best players on the floor were Tyler Zeller, who had 19 points on 8-9 shooting, abusing Indiana's front line in the paint and Kelly Olynyk, who despite a rather gruesome eye contusion, played, and played effectively well, scoring 19, giving Boston plenty of extra pop in their step. Even Evan Turner dropped a triple double on the Pacers, with 13 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds helping Boston towards the win.
With Boston, Brooklyn, and Charlotte each winning, things are looking increasingly bleak for Indiana as the chances of playing for ping pong balls for the first time since 2010 looking more and more likely. Of course, a shaky Nets win over the league worst Knicks simply goes to show how unstable even the "playoff" teams in this race are. While Indiana certainly looks the least capable at the moment, things may look completely different a week from now. Indiana will keep their flickering flame going for a while longer, hosting the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.