In a game featuring big swings in momentum, the Indiana Pacers caught the pendulum at the right time, closing out the Boston Celtics with a fourth quarter comeback after having fell behind by 10 heading into the quarter. The Pacers outscored the Celtics 38-23 in the fourth, overcoming a dreadful third in which they themselves were outscored 37-23.
The double figure deficit at the end of the third was the first of the night for the Pacers. While it was hardly an opportune time to fall behind by 10, it wasn’t the first time they on the wrong side of the scoreboard. A hot start for the Celtics threatened to bury the Pacers early. Boston jumped out to a 30-21 lead in the late stages of the first, hitting three consecutive threes, two of those by Kemba Walker, who had half of Boston’s scoring output to that point.
Justin Holiday stepped in to cut the lead to six with a three, allowing the Pacers to close the quarter on a 9-2 run thanks in addition to four late points from T.J. McConnell. The bench unit (with Domantas Sabonis) carried the momentum into the second quarter, eventually taking the lead on a Holiday dunk at 37-36.
The game went back and forth until the starters returned, when Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner scored the next nine, pushing their way into a double figure lead with help from T.J. Warren. The Pacers led 57-44 when Walker shifted the game back in Boston’s favor, scoring or assisting on Boston’s final 13 of the half, suddenly making it a four point game at the break.
The Celtics took the lead early in the third quarter, leading to nine lead changes in the first seven minutes of the third. Unfortunately, the Pacers struggled to manufacture offense after falling behind 78-76 on a Jaylen Brown three, finishing just 2-6 shooting with three turnovers, allowing the Celtics to close the quarter on a 19-8 run, leading by 10 heading into the fourth.
Once again, the bench unit lifted the Pacers up to start the fourth, particularly from Justin and Aaron Holiday. The brothers scored 10 straight Pacers points to make it a two point game at 98-96 in just under four minutes of action. Indiana not only found scoring success from the Holidays, but stepped up their game defensively, forcing the Celtics into three early Jayson Tatum turnovers.
Two more Celtics turnovers allowed the Pacers to stay within two before Doug McDermott went to the free throw line to tie the game at 102-102 with five minutes left. Threatening the lead the entire fourth, the Pacers finally broke through with 4:16 remaining, Brogdon finding A. Holiday in the corner for the go-ahead three.
After taking the lead, Brogdon in particular refused to relinquish it. Brogdon scored the next six, getting to the line for four to push Indiana ahead by two, and then finding J. Holiday in the same corner to push the Pacers up by five with 1:26 to go.
That wasn’t the last of the Celtics, however, as Tatum and Brad Wanamaker took trips to the line to bring the game to within one. On the other end, Sabonis, who had struggled putting an impact on the game despite another double double, went to work in the post, getting his 15th point of the night and pushing Indiana up by three with 32 seconds left.
From there, it was all about fundamentals for the Pacers. Inbounding the ball (barely) to Brogdon to ice the game. Brogdon went 6-6 down the stretch to close out the 122-117 win, bringing his total on the night to 15-15, the Pacers needing every one. The Pacers as a team had their best night of the year in getting to the line, shooting a season high 36, making 30.
They also had a much better night moving the ball, dishing out 27 assists, led by Brogdon with eight and McConnell with five. The two point guards found the Holiday Bros. five times for threes, getting the Pacers to 10 makes on the night, which proved a huge boost late to help trim off the deficit between their makes and Boston’s 14. The Celtics, lights out early from deep, settled into a worse shooting night overall, making 38.9% of their threes to Indiana’s 40%.
Brogdon, also celebrating his birthday, finished with a team high 29 points, 12 points coming in the final four minutes, where he made all 10 of his free throws. Brogdon’s ability to attack the rim and make shots around the basket helped open things up for the rest of his game, where he was 2-3 from three point range, 6-10 overall for the night.
The Pacers were in need of a big close out performance to help overcome not only their early deficit in the fourth, but a 44-point outing from Walker. Walker sliced and diced Indiana through three quarters, but was just 2-6 in the fourth, missing a game tying attempt wide left with four seconds on the clock.
A big outing was also necessary to overcome a rather pedestrian showing from the rest of the starters. While four of the five starters reached double figures, Sabonis was the high scorer with 15. Warren did most of his scoring around the middle of the game, scoring 14 while Turner had nine of his 11 in the first half.
Jeremy Lamb finished with a season low six points on 2-8 shooting, which given the final score, again shows Indiana’s options offensively to where one of their most reliable scorers can have an off night and it not cost the Pacers against a quality opponent. Ultimately, it was the second unit that helped push the Pacers over the top, namely the Holidays.
Justin and Aaron combined for 35 points, Aaron leading the way with 18. The duo had their best output when it counted, combining for 20 points in the fourth quarter. McConnell didn’t offer much of a scoring punch, but found the Holidays well for his five assists. McDermott struggled shooting himself, but still worked his way to eight points on 3-11 shooting. He was 2-4 from the line, hitting both to tie the game in the fourth after having both of his and-one attempts go awry.
After weeks locked in the sixth seed, the Pacers may finally see some daylight in front of them in the standings, climbing to within a half a game of Toronto with the win and just two from a top three seed. The success of the top teams in the East at home makes Indiana the fifth team to win their 10th home game tonight, a feat just two Western Conference teams have achieved.
The Pacers will hit the road for a night on Friday when they face the Atlanta Hawks for a second time this season. Indiana struggled mightily with Trae Young in their last meeting, forcing them to inch out a win in overtime.