Without Paul George, missing action with an ankle injury, the Indiana Pacers were playing with a razor thin margin against the Boston Celtics and weren't able to play to those margins in a loss, dropping both ends of their back-to-back. The Pacers built a double figure lead in the second quarter and led much of the third, but failures to close both quarters opened far too many doors for Boston, who wouldn't let that same advantage slip through their fingers in the fourth.
The outcome was probably expected without Indiana's best player, but there still wasn't much shown by the Pacers that was encouraging in the sense of seeing guys lift their games in George's absence and really put their stamp on the game. Jeff Teague led the Pacers with 20 points, but was just 4-15 from the field. Teague did get to the line, shooting 11-12, though his play as a distributor lacked tonight with only four assists and less than ideal finds, especially late.
One of those failures was in not making the most of Myles Turner in the fourth quarter. Turner was quiet early, but once he returned in the fourth, he began to make a real impact on the game. He finished with seven points in the fourth on a 17-point night while he was also getting some rare stops for the Pacers on the defensive end with two big blocks at the rim.
Unfortunately, despite Turner being 3-3 from the field in the third, he only had three attempts and eight for the game. If Indiana had a chance to ride a hot hand to a potential comeback victory, it felt like Turner was Indiana's best option and he just wasn't involved enough on offense. The alternatives were either a Teague brick (and hopefully free throws) or a Monta Ellis drive to the free throw line.
Ellis had 15, getting to the line seven times, but was just 4-7 from the line. Stepping away from the line after his third miss, the Pacers trailed by just three points. Indiana was -6 from the free throw line while missing seven attempts. Getting to the line 28 times is good even though the Celtics had 33 attempts. A few of those may have been questionable calls, but there was no question in the fight for Boston with Isaiah Thomas overcoming his own poor game to score 14 of his 23 from the line.
Indiana continued to struggle with rebounding, with loose ball rebounds winding up far too often in Boston's possession, 15 offensive rebounds leading to 18 second chance points for the Celtics. The Pacers had 16 second chance points off of 11 offensive rebounds, but with that razor thin margin without George, the game was largely decided on what the Pacers couldn't prevent Boston from doing as what they were doing.
One strange decision came in the fourth quarter when the starters returned to the game sans Thaddeus Young. Young had played fairly well, scoring 10 points in 24 minutes, but also leading Indiana with four offensive rebounds. Young was eschewed by Lavoy Allen, who played well late in Philadelphia, but wasn't leading to many stops that would make his lack of offense an upgrade to Young having a chance to make things happen off of misses.
The Pacers did get some solid minutes from their bench as Al Jefferson leading the way with 10 points. Jefferson continues to settle into a nice niche, forcing Boston's hand after Indiana jumped up five on back-to-back Jefferson go-tos in the third. Aaron Brooks had nine with a pair of threes and Glenn Robinson III had a couple of nice stretches, scoring eight points.
The good news for the Pacers is that George's ankle injury is listed as day-to-day, which makes his rest tonight precautionary more than anything. Indiana will hopefully have him in the lineup when they continue their homestand against Frank Vogel and the Orlando Magic on Monday.