The Legend of Victor Oladipo continues to grow after another huge showing in Winning Time, leading the Indiana Pacers to a 102-101 home win over the Boston Celtics. He struggled shooting most of the night, finishing 6-18 from the floor and 4-13 from three point range, but that didn’t matter with the game on the line. Oladipo shot 3-4 in the fourth for 10 points, including a game winning three pointer in transition.
Watch it as many times as necessary because this wasn’t an obvious one from the live angle as the net didn’t budge. Quinn Buckner had it all the way and once it set in, this was on track to be a gutsy and resilient win. This game played like a playoff game, with a heavy emphasis on each possession and any misses and miscues feeling like glaring opportunities missed.
The two teams swapped runs to start the game, but it quickly shifted in favor of the Celtics, pushing a 28-18 lead into the second quarter and leading by as many as 13. A crucial 8-2 run from the bench early in the second helped swing some key momentum back in Indiana’s favor, allowing them to chip away at the deficit, eventually tying the game at 45-45 heading into the break.
The Pacers closed the half exceptionally strong, outscoring Boston 7-0 in the final four minutes. This came in the midst of Indiana missing four straight free throws, but the Pacers were able to force the Celtics into four turnovers to close the half, limiting them to just three shots in four minutes, all threes.
From the start of the third quarter, neither team was able to find any distance from the other. Indiana led by as many as six in the third, but the Celtics were quickly able to erase those deficits and vice versa. The Pacers closed the third strong thanks to Tyreke Evans, who hit a big time three to send the game into the fourth quarter tied at 72.
Evans continued to attack to open the fourth, scoring four more to put the Pacers ahead by one. His final points of the night were a three to again move the Pacers back into the lead. Evans finished with 17 points and three assists, hitting three threes to lead the bench.
Indiana’s second unit scored 37 on the night, including a 12-point, nine rebound night from Domantas Sabonis and seven points and three rebounds from T.J. Leaf. The two combined for 8-13 on a night when shooting was at a premium. The Pacers shot just 41.4% for the game, but on the other end, the Pacers were able to limit the effectiveness of Boston’s shooting, keeping them at 43.2% despite hitting 19 threes.
The starters returned wholesale after big buckets from Sabonis and Leaf, sitting in an 89-89 game with four and a half minutes remaining. The Pacers led 95-94 with just under two minutes after the teams traded threes. At that point, the Pacers were forced to deal with the full brunt of Kyrie Irving’s shot making abilities. Irving hit a pair of tough (tough!) threes that Kyrie Irving tends to hit to put the Celtics up four with 37 seconds left.
In between those threes, the Pacers found reprieve with an Oladipo jumper that was a foot short of counting for an extra point, but any bucket in that situation proved crucial in just keeping the Pacers alive. After Irving’s second bucket to give Boston a 101-97 lead, Oladipo drove the lane and drew a foul to send him to the line.
Oladipo stepped up and calmly hit both free throws to cut the lead to two. Despite early season struggles at the line, there was no doubt in Oladipo’s ability to hit from the line tonight, bringing his two game total to 14-14 from the line. This capped a night when the Pacers outscored Boston 19-6 from the line.
Cory Joseph was put back in the game for defensive purposes, a move that paid off as Joseph worked to force Irving to miss a layup, giving Oladipo the rebound and the chance to push the ball up the court for the go-ahead three. Boston moved the ball forward with their final timeout and Oladipo was able to steal the inbounds pass, securing the well-earned victory.
Oladipo finished the night with 24 points and 12 rebounds, doing everything for the Pacers down the stretch despite his struggles leading up to the game’s closing minutes, even down to making time to holds babies. The rest of the team helped set up that opportunity, not only from the bench to help bring the Pacers back after the slow start, but with double figure nights from both Bojan Bogdanovic (16 points) and Myles Turner (12).
Darren Collison had nine points and four assists, with he and Bogdanovic combining for three threes. Thaddeus Young had one of those nights where he couldn’t find the bottom of the night, but as always, looked to make impacts elsewhere, coming up with eight rebounds and five assists.
Indiana was just 19-25 from the free throw line and despite having such a big advantage over the Celtics, those misses very nearly cost the Pacers. Ultimately, they were able to use the 13 point advantage to help them weather being a -8 from three point range, with the Celtics shooting a respectable 41% on 19-46 shooting from deep.
This win marks an impressive one in the season’s early goings, helping push the Pacers to 7-3, third in the East. Even with the win, it’s easy to see where the Celtics have room for improvement, but neither team looked their best tonight, which will make the evolution of this season series interesting when they meet again on January 9.
In the meantime, the Pacers kicked off a very tough stretch on a positive note, giving them a rare two game sweep in a back-to-back situation, improving them to a simply unheard of 2-0 record on the second night. The Pacers will continue their home stand on Monday, facing the Houston Rockets, who have found a pair of wins after a woeful start to the win.