Fantastic efforts from Paul George, Jeff Teague, and Lavoy Allen were wasted thanks to a woeful performance from the rest of the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers dropped back into the loss column, as the Boston Celtics completed their season sweep of the Pacers with a fairly comfortable victory in the second half.
The Pacers had good energy early, but an inability to hit shots kept them from being much of a threat to the Celtics, who had major ball control issues throughout the first half. The Pacers forced 14 first half turnovers on Boston, helping create situations where the offense could come around.
It didn’t come around until the third quarter, when the Pacers went 13-18 from the floor, scoring 32. Unfortunately, in that same quarter, the Pacers allowed the Celtics to shoot 17-25 from the floor, scoring 39 points. The inability to match positive defensive play with positive offensive play doomed the Pacers, as did a horrid use of second half rotations by Nate McMillan.
Al Jefferson defense allowed Boston to score 16 points at the rim in the third quarter, keeping any chance of a Pacers comeback at a minimum as the Celtics swelled a seven point halftime lead into 17 points early in the fourth. In the fourth, the Pacers used a 10-0 run to climb as close as six points, but failure to capitalize at that point (and get subsequent stops) quickly pushed the lead back to three possessions.
The fourth quarter rotation placed Monta Ellis in the game instead of C.J. Miles. From a performance standpoint, it wasn’t a complete surprise: Miles was struggling on the night and Ellis had been playing well recently, but had only five points on 2-10 shooting, making it even more confusing that McMillan didn’t simply opt to move back towards Miles (or even Glenn Robinson III).
As Zach Lowe pointed out yesterday in his Pacers piece, however, “The Pacers' non-Ellis starting lineups -- with Miles or Robinson III in his place -- have destroyed opponents,” which creates a perplexing coaching situation that continues to ignore it. Even if Miles is struggling and Robinson III inching closer to the doghouse with his own issues, it simply doesn’t add up to play Ellis in these situations, especially when he’s committing costly turnovers late in the game.
In addition, Lowe also echoed C. Cooper’s continued frustration with seeing an Allen/Jefferson front line. While Allen deserves plenty of credit for playing a gusty game where he scored eight points and pulled in 14 rebounds (nine offensive!), there’s no advantage to playing him with Jefferson, and these decisions are actively hurting the Pacers, especially when it comes to road games where they are now an absurd 11-25.
Myles Turner had one of his worst games of the season; a late three pointer brought up him to seven points and nine rebounds (fingers crossed the three pointer brings him out of his slump), but he was wildly ineffective scoring (missing both of his free throws) though he did dish out five assists. Scoring has suddenly become an issue for Turner, who since having a streak of 22 straight double figure games snapped has been in double figures just three times in the last 10 games, which is especially a problem on nights like this when it’s a two-man show offensively.
George led the way for the Pacers with 37 points tonight, doing it all and more, hitting five of Indiana’s 11 three pointers and 10 of their 13 free throws. George paired well with Teague tonight, who followed up with 25 points, including a trio of threes himself. Teague finished with six assists, with the Pacers as a team finishing with 20. That number was inflated due to their fourth quarter comeback, with eight assists coming in the final period.
Boston hit 11 three pointers on the night, though nine of those came in the first three quarters. Part of Indiana’s ability to stage a comeback came with five fourth quarter threes while Boston cooled off, hitting just one. That didn’t stop the Celtics from shooting 51% for the game, while the Pacers finished at just 43%.
Tonight’s loss pushes the Pacers to 15 consecutive games of alternating wins and losses. The NBA record is 16, giving the Pacers a chance to tie the record on Friday when they host the Denver Nuggets. The game will be the first of three straight home games which also features Philadelphia and Minnesota, hopefully giving them a chance to pick up some wins.
Currently, however, it doesn’t appear losing will ultimately be costly for the Pacers in regards to making the playoffs, as the Detroit Pistons drop their second straight in as many nights, keeping the Pacers 2 1⁄2 games ahead of Detroit with the head-to-head tiebreaker.
That could get dicey if Chicago (who whacked Detroit at home) manages to work back into the playoff picture, but in the meantime, Indiana’s biggest question is who, not whether or not. Atlanta losing their fifth straight game tonight miraculously keeps Indiana just one game out of the 5th spot, though Miami and Milwaukee will each keep the Pacers guessing as the season enters its final three weeks.