After the Celtics jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start the game, it seemed like the outcome was a formality less than three minutes into the game.
But a Pacers timeout and subsequent 13-0 run turned Game 4 into the playoff game everyone expected. Unfortunately, the Celtics put away the Pacers late, once again, 110-106 to close out the playoff series and end the Pacers season.
Here’s how the game played out.
Neither team shot it great early, but the Pacers lead 23-21 after the first quarter which saw Nate McMillan alter his playing rotation by using Aaron Holiday with the reserve unit. In doing so, he also used a smaller lineup after initially playing three guards with Myles Turner and Domas Sabonis.
Bojan Bogdanovic replaced Turner and the Pacers went small with Sabonis at center and Bogey playing the 4. First possession, they were able to spread out D and get Sabonis an easy hook at rim. Then a similar outcome put Sabonis at the line after getting fouled at the rim.
The second quarter followed a similar arc as the Pacers were outscored 15-5 in the first five minutes but rallied to tighten things up for the final four minutes of the half. The Pacers struggled to get a bounce all day as missed layups and tips mounted in the second quarter. But a nice drive and finish by Thad Young along with a make after a foul by Tyreke Evans sparked the Pacers second-quarter comeback.
Then a Myles Turner flush over Gordon Hayward woke up the Fieldhouse and pushed the Pacers to the break up 2. (check out all the angles) Still, the Pacers shooting percentage remained in the low 30’s until a late surge brought it near 40 percent at the half.
After Celtics steal, Jayson Tatum gave up ball to Matthews without much fight. Thad Young then followed DC miss with a putback dunk.
Celtics took a one point lead to the fourth quarter after both teams enjoyed or suffered wild swings of offensive success. The Pacers continued struggling to get, let alone make good shots and were at 36% from the floor after three quarters. The struggle was real.
Tyreke Evans was able to get the Pacers going with six points to start the fourth quarter including a couple of contested layups. The Pacers were up 82-80 with over seven minutes to go, but soon thereafter, Cory Joseph tried to prevent a break away dunk by Jayson Tatum and in the process caught the top of Tatum’s head on the foul. Flagrant one, but after Tatum made both free throws, Boston didn’t score.
But over the final six minutes, the Celtics started squeezing out points to gradually extend their lead. In the role of Pacers killer not named Kyrie or Al, Marcus Morris did damage much of the afternoon. His buckets were always timely for the Celtics and while the stat sheet says he missed four shots, it seems like he made ‘em all. None were more key than a three with five minutes left that gave Boston the lead, 87-83.
From there, Gordon Hayward got into Myles Turner then faded away for a wild layup plus the foul. The lead crept to seven. After two free throws, Hayward hit again, this time from three-land. A Pacers turnover and Tatum dunk and Boston was up 10 with three minutes to go. Ball game.
Thanks to a few too little, too late threes by the Pacers in the final minute, the final score appears closer than how the game played out in the fourth quarter.
Along with Hayward down the stretch, Morris and Tatum did the heavy lifting while Kyrie Irving enjoyed setting the offense in motion for his teammates. Morris and Hayward combined for 38 points off the bench to give the Celtics some strong closing power.
The Pacers stuck with Evans down the stretch but the team had to fight too hard for buckets after Boston started making everything. Evans finished with 21 points (including 6 in waning seconds) while Bogey had 22.
On to what should be a very entertaining offseason for the Pacers.