In a season filled with resiliency and an ability to overcome adversity, the Indiana Pacers weren’t able to pull together one final win in the NBA Playoffs, falling short in Game 4 to the Boston Celtics. The loss completed a disappointing four game sweep, one in which the Pacers had every opportunity to win at least one of these four games.
Today, similar to the first three games, was no different in terms of how the Pacers put themselves in a position to win, leading at halftime for the third time in this series. It was, however, the first time in the four games that the Pacers didn’t completely shoot themselves in the foot with an abhorrent shooting quarter, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t rife with offensive struggles.
The Pacers fell behind 8-0 to start the game, but quickly scored 13 straight to put them ahead. With the game tied 17-17, the teams traded defensive blows, with the Pacers missing six straight shots before Cory Joseph finally broke the tie with a three pointer. Despite leading after one, they still couldn’t find a groove offensively, missing five of their first six shots in the second, suddenly finding themselves down nine.
Again they bounced back, getting solid play from the second unit, cutting the lead to one just past the halfway point of the quarter. They finally broke through into the lead with a 6-0 run to end the half, giving them a 49-47 advantage at the break. Despite holding the lead, Indiana left a ton of points on the floor, struggling mightily to get to 50% shooting in the paint.
The poor shooting inside wasn’t being made up for anywhere else, putting the Pacers in a position where their inability to capitalize early made it difficult to really build a comfortable advantage in the third quarter. They jumped ahead by seven out of the half, but weren’t able to pull ahead any further.
After committing just three turnovers in the first half, they had five in the third, which allowed Boston to slowly chip away at the lead, going ahead 73-72 at the end of the quarter. The second unit, particularly that of Tyreke Evans and Domantas Sabonis provided a push early in the fourth for the Pacers, the two scoring the first 11 of the fourth.
While Sabonis brought the Pacers to within one at 84-83 to keep Indiana within striking distance, it was Boston that made the game winning push by outscoring Indiana 13-2, with Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris scoring 11 to give Boston a 10 point lead with under three minutes remaining.
That deficit proved too much to overcome, especially after Hayward drilled a dagger three with just over a minute to go, sending the Pacers to a 110-106 season ending loss. In the one game where Indiana didn’t completely shoot themselves out of a game, it ended up being one of the games where the shotmaking abilities of the Celtics made the difference.
The Pacers still didn’t shoot well, finishing at just 40.9% for the game, elevating over 40% on three late threes. It was their second worst shooting performance of the series despite not having a notorious 12-point or fewer quarter. It featured some best-of-series individual performances, but no one was efficient enough to lift the Pacers, especially late.
Boston’s second unit did that heavy lifting in Game 4, shooting 18-26 with seven combined three pointers. Indiana’s second unit was outscored 49-40, a gap that was closed on a pair of late threes from Evans. Evans again took on the bulk of the playmaking in the second unit, but his positives were weighed down on some typical misses, leading him to 15 points on 5-16 shooting before hitting two late threes with the game out of reach.
Sabonis played the best he had in the series, finishing with 14 points on 6-9 shooting, but still wasn’t completely able to play his game. Myles Turner as well finished with his best game of the series, but it still only resulted in 13 points on 5-12 shooting. He put down a monster dunk on Hayward, which paired well with two excellent blocks, but neither elevated their game to the level necessary for the win.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 22 points, shooting 6-14 from the floor, but working his way to the line, finishing 9-10 on a night when Indiana shot 85% as a team. Darren Collison also had a solid night at the line, going 6-6 as part of his 19 points. He led the team with Evans with three threes, one of his coming in the final minutes.
For the second time in three seasons, the Pacers head into the offseason on a hard-fought four game sweep, though the similarities between this team and the team that lost to the 2017 Cavaliers are pretty minimal if only looking at the effort this team put forth throughout the year and into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, a sweep is a sweep regardless who is or who isn’t in the lineup and this Pacers team will have a ton of questions heading into the offseason. Seven of their players will hit free agency, including four of the five starters in today’s game. The difficult questions extend beyond even the free agents, in whether Turner/Sabonis can play together moving forward and where this team truly is in terms of their old-school coaching philosophy.
Another year of Pacers basketball has concluded, earlier than hoped, but not without some exciting moments throughout the year. It’s hard to know how this roster will look when the summer ends, but the front office has all the flexibility to make the improvements necessary to ensure they aren’t the first team eliminated next year.