Short Victor Oladipo, the Indiana Pacers faced a tough challenge in extending their winning streak against the league best Boston Celtics. Things went in Indiana’s favor early, getting a big first quarter from Lance Stephenson as the Pacers jumped ahead by 13 in the first half.
In the third quarter, however, the Pacers came back to earth, fueled by a much more focused Boston team, leading them to be outscored 37-16 in the quarter. Much of the success in the first half was being done despite allowing Boston’s worst shooters to have scorching games. That only magnified when the Celtics defense ramped up.
Indiana still had their opportunities despite that thanks to a positive fourth quarter, but the difference in the third proved too much to make up when they still allowed 26 fourth quarter points. The Pacers ended up just 7-23 from three point range, and each three miss proved to be a missed opportunity, with Boston’s trio of extra threes making up the difference.
The Pacers played balanced tonight, perhaps as a fault. Stephenson had 11 points in the first quarter, but just five for the rest of the game to go with eight rebounds and five assists. Foul trouble hampered Myles Turner early, taking away time on the floor that could have helped push the Pacers. Turner had a team high 19 for the game after scoring 12 in the fourth quarter.
Domantas Sabonis scored 17, but struggled from the floor at just 5-13. He did have five offensive rebounds, but only came up with two second chance points out of them. Indiana had six double figure scorers, but none of Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young, or Bojan Bogdanovic scored above 11, nor did any of them shoot 50%.
The Celtics meanwhile were short Jaylen Brown, absent for personal reasons, but got huge games from both Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. The duo entered shooting a combined 31.6% on the season, but went a shocking 14-17 from the floor for 32 points. Where Boston stepped up in absence, Indiana did not, and it resulted in a rare recent loss.
Boston entered having not shot 50% all season, but thanks to a 70% second half, they were able to finish at 56% for the game. For a team like the Celtics, that has won on their defense, allowing them control the game offensively as well proved to be too high a hurdle for the Pacers to overcome.
Indiana will look to get back on track on Monday when they host the Orlando Magic. The Pacers will look for their sixth straight win over Orlando, who has lost eight straight games overall. With or without Oladipo, this is an opportunity the Pacers need to look to seize.