There wasn’t much good for the Indiana Pacers in their blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, showcasing a no-show defensive effort inside while also surrendering the three point line throughout the game. The end result was Indiana’s worst loss of the season, and it was barely as close as the score indicated.
Boston took full advantage of the absence of Myles Turner, scoring at will in the paint early, but Indiana managed to keep the game in check until the midway point of the second quarter when the Celtics simply edged their way to a bigger and bigger lead. With Boston heating up, Indiana could ill afford to leave points on the board, but still managed to do just that when Bojan Bogdanovic and Victor Oladipo missed four straight free throws down nine.
From there, Indiana was outscored 10-4, suddenly putting them down 17 and then 15 heading into the break. The Celtics had little trouble pushing the lead off of Indiana miscues, leading by 20 when the Pacers finally showed signs of life, drawing the game to within 12 by finally taking advantage of Boston’s miscues.
Unfortunately, the Pacers surrendered a three point play to Daniel Theis on the next possession, fouled Marcus Morris on the next possession and within a minute of game action, the Celtics had scored eight straight to push the lead back to 20. That was all she wrote for the Pacers on the night, but Boston didn’t let up, hitting three consecutive threes towards the end of the quarter, pushing the lead to 27.
In the middle two quarters, the Pacers gave up 76 points, continuing their recent defensive woes. Without Turner, it’s obvious they’re not the same team defensively, but there’s little in the way of adjustments Indiana has or appears capable of making. The Celtics entered as one of the lowest scoring teams in the paint, but dropped 56 on the Pacers with unbelievable ease.
Things weren’t much better on the other end. While Indiana was an open door on their defensive end, Boston was much more keyed in, especially inside. Indiana scored 40 in the paint, below their season average, and were blocked seven times in total. The Pacers on the other hand, their second straight game with zero blocks, leaving a lot of kids without backpacks.
While posing no threat in the paint, Indiana also had very little success in forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. Both teams played relatively clean with both teams finishing with less than 15, but Indiana still allowed Boston to score 20 off of transition, and got blown up in the fast break 33-10.
Not surprisingly, Indiana’s best stretch in the second half was when they best read the passing lanes and forced turnovers, trimming the lead to 12, but relying entirely on that to overcome an otherwise 43% shooting night and 32% night from three was going to be a tall task on a night when Boston could get any shot they wanted, whenever they wanted it.
Domantas Sabonis led the Pacers with 20 points, coming up with seven rebounds and five assists in the process. He was joined in double figures by Thaddeus Young, scoring 10. The two combined for seven of Indiana’s 12 offensive rebounds, giving the Pacers 13 second chance points. Unfortunately, like most things, it wasn’t enough, especially as they allowed 11 to nine Celtics offensive boards.
Tyreke Evans played well off the bench, scoring a much needed 15 points with five assists, but did play heavy volume basketball, going just 6-16 from the field. He was a dreadful 1-3 from the line, joining T.J. Leaf, Oladipo, and Bogdanovic on a night when Indiana shot just 21-33 overall, spending a good deal of the game below Boston’s field goal percentage.
The aforementioned players made up a bulk of the struggles, combining for 5-16 at the line. Obviously given the final score, 11 points wouldn’t have been enough, but given a good deal of these misses coming early, it did keep them from ever really establishing themselves against the Celtics.
The loss drops the Pacers to 27-14 at the halfway mark of the season. That’s good enough for 54 wins across 82 games, which is what Indiana did do in the calendar year of 2018. That is more indicative of the kind of team Indiana is rather than their performance tonight, but they have their own adjustments they need to make in order to get back on track.
Part of that is the loss of Turner and that’s one of the frustrating things about the games against Boston and Toronto on this road trip. With the Pacers taking full advantage of their schedule leading up to this road trip, it is unfortunate they couldn’t be at full strength to get a better idea where they stack up against the other elite teams in the East. Instead, they will have to settle for an 0-2 record on this road trip.
The Pacers can still pull out a winning trip as it reaches its conclusion on Friday against the New York Knicks. The Knicks themselves will be playing at home for the first time in 2019, setting up a game between two road weary squads. The Pacers are 2-0 against the Knicks, but neither game has been easy and given Indiana’s recent play, it can’t be expected that will be the case on Friday either.