Both the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics entered tonight’s game among the league worst in clutch situations, but the Pacers refused to be outdone, losing their seventh straight on the road, once again in heartbreaking fashion. The Pacers were unable to hold onto a four-point lead with 45 seconds to go as Jayson Tatum forced overtime with a corner jumper.
Once there, Boston managed to simply hold on. Up four, they fouled Justin Holiday on a three point attempt with three seconds remaining, but Holiday’s intentional miss banked in, resulting in a 101-98 overtime loss. It was a fourth quarter and overtime that could really only be described as “wacky,” turning an already oddball game on its head.
The Pacers trailed by eight heading into the fourth, at a shockingly low score of 68-60. Josh Richardson extended the Boston lead to double figures when Lance Stephenson and Torrey Craig shot the Pacers back into it, back to-back threes as part of an 8-0 run that made it a one possession game.
They were finally able to break through into the lead at the midway mark of the fourth, extending their lead as high as three when Jaylen Brown tied it on a three with 4:22 remaining. Struggles for both sides kept the score locked when Tatum broke the drought to give Boston a two point advantage.
Stephenson responded, hitting a big time three and then after a stop, threw a court-length pass to Oshae Brissett, putting the Pacers up four with a three point play dunk.
gonna be watching this play on repeat pic.twitter.com/PXHOvClYKz— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 11, 2022
The four-point lead would evaporate down the stretch, the Pacers missing both of their go-ahead attempts that forced overtime. Those misses were two of many for Indiana tonight, finishing at 38.3% from the floor and 11-37 from three point range. They were just 7-24 from the field in the first quarter, setting the tone for the ugly, nigh unwatchable game that would follow.
Neither team was able to find any semblance of an offensive rhythm in large part to the endless parade of turnovers committed by both teams. By the time the game was over, the Pacers and Celtics had combined for 36 turnovers, all in all leading to 40 points off turnovers between them.
It was also a night where simply having the best scorers on the floor helped. Tatum and Brown combined for 50 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Indiana meanwhile got 48 points total from their starting five, led by 11 each from Domantas Sabonis, Holiday, and Keifer Sykes.
Sabonis in particular was bottled up all night by Al Horford and Robert Williams III, going just 3-12 from the floor and struggling to find his way to the line, attempting six free throws, which was still the team high with Holiday. Indiana had eight less points at the line, which in a game as bereft of scoring as this one, proved to be too much to overcome.
He did finish with 10 assists, however, doing a solid job finding guys for buckets even when the offense seemed to break down with frequency. His 23 rebounds would help keep the battle on the boards close, but the inability to convert on second chance points despite eight offensive rebounds was another tough hill to climb, losing again by eight.
That put a lot on the bench to make up a lot of the scoring deficiencies the Pacers had tonight. Lamb kept the Pacers within striking distance in the first, scoring nine of his 11 in the 17-point quarter while Stephenson and Craig would come along towards the end of the game. Craig finished with a team high 19, converting on three from deep while Stephenson also hit three, finishing with 14. His one assist was the outlet to Brissett, again showing just where Boston was able to cut down on Indiana’s effectiveness.
All of this led to some wonky lineups towards the end of the game, including Duane Washington Jr. (nine points) stepping in for end of fourth/OT possessions and limited offense/defense switches involving Myles Turner, who after blocking two of his three shots in the first quarter, was held out much of the night, finishing with 23 minutes.
In the end, however, nothing good came out of Indiana playing in a close game. The loss drops them back to 11 under .500, now five games back of this 10th place Celtics squad halfway through the season. At the midway mark, the Pacers are 15-26, on pace for 30 wins, which would be their worst season in well over 30 years.
The impossibly bad record in close games (now 1-12 in games decided by four points or less) figures to at some point turn around, but if it hasn’t through 41 games, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which it does and what the back end of the season looks like if they do.
In the meantime, the Pacers will travel home to take on this same Boston team in a rematch on Wednesday. The Celtics themselves will enter Gainbridge Fieldhouse on a six game road losing streak, once again recreating a perfect scenario for two bad teams to duke it out long enough to see who falls flat in the end.