The clock worked in favor of the Indiana Pacers late, helping them to avoid a nearly identical collapse as their downtown neighbors, holding off the Boston Celtics for the big road win. The Pacers led by 28 points at halftime, but were left scrambling in the second half, struggling to pull in rebounds and committing three turnovers in the final minute.
The Pacers put themselves in control of the game early. They stumbled a bit out of the gate, missing eight of their first nine shots, but blew up following their first timeout, scoring 18 straight to take a double figure lead. They poured on a season high 42 points to lead by 20, taking full advantage of Boston’s own turnover struggles to get there.
In the second, Malcolm Brogdon gave the Celtics some much needed life, cutting into the lead, but Indiana’s rebounding prevented them from climbing any closer than 16, Jalen Smith kicking off a 10-0 run that extended the lead out to 29. The boos rained down on the home team when the duo of Aaron Nesmith and Tyrese Haliburton scored the final 10, giving Indiana a commanding 71-43 halftime lead.
Al Horford took a stand to start the second half, hitting two threes for Boston, quickly changing the flow of the game. As the Celtics slowly worked themselves back into striking distance, Indiana got a timely response from Chris Duarte, hitting three of his four triples in the third, including a well-contested buzzer beater to give the Pacers a 15-point cushion heading into the fourth.
The Celtics weren’t all that much better shooting the ball in the second half, but the effort was huge, leading to a massive rebounding boon. Boston had 15 offensive rebounds in the second half, nine of those coming in the fourth, which accounted for 11 second chance points.
It’s no surprise the Pacers struggled to keep the game out of reach. They shot just 33% in the quarter on 14 fewer shot attempts, but would come up with a basket at just the right time to extend their stay of execution. Even with Haliburton having a big night scoring the ball, Boston still managed to make it a five-point game with 3:06 remaining on a Jaylen Brown triple.
Haliburton matched the three on the other end and Buddy Hield pulled in a much needed rebound. Haliburton then whipped the ball into a wide open Myles Turner, getting the dunk and the foul, giving Indiana a game-saving 6-0 run at the 2:09 mark.
Fans began to sense a third straight home loss for Boston, but the players on the floor never packed it in, trapping Indiana and forcing them into costly turnovers, cutting the lead to five with 18.1 seconds remaining. An inability to get the ball inbounds effectively resulted in the third turnover in four possessions, Nesmith fouling Jayson Tatum on the floor to save a three, giving Indiana the exhausting 117-112 win.
As Dustin Dopirak pointed out following the game, had it gone on any longer, it would’ve almost certainly been a loss. Boston came out flat and uninspired in the first half, but flipped the switch in the second. They not only scored 69 second half points, they held the Pacers to just 46, a nearly identical flip from the first half.
Indiana shot 41.5% in the second half, committing 11 of their 14 turnovers in those final 24 minutes. Their rebounding also fell apart in a big way. They were outrebounded by 13 in the second half, 10 of those on the offensive glass, which of course led to the massive second chance point advantage.
The Celtics also got a big advantage at the free throw line. For two teams that had similar shot selections on the night, the Celtics nabbed 16 extra free throws, committing just nine fouls on the night to Indiana’s 22. That, like all things in the second half, was just another storm the Pacers had to weather, but they did a good job in the fourth, holding the Celtics to just two free throw attempts.
Haliburton led the way for the Pacers on the night with 33 points, shooting 12-24 and 6-13 from deep. Haliburton looked to be a scorer tonight from the jump, hitting three triples in the first quarter to total 15 points. He closed the game with eight assists, leading the way in a ball movement heavy starting lineup.
Haliburton’s scoring opened things up for Nesmith, who had 15 points and six rebounds in his return to Boston. Nesmith was 6-13 overall with one three, leading the way for the team in terms of effort. He had a team high two steals, including a steal and layup following a basket that at the time pushed the lead back to 24 after Boston’s 8-0 run.
Turner was the other double figure scorer for the starters, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds, dishing three assists. Outside of Haliburton’s scoring and Nesmith’s effort, it took balanced play to seal the win, with all 10 players scoring at least six. Duarte was the lone double figure scorer off the bench, finishing with 14, including 4-5 from deep, looking much more comfortable in his second game back from injury.
Four other players finished with eight, including Andrew Nembhard, who was the perfect secondary point guard alongside Haliburton and T.J. McConnell, dishing five assists, including a beauty of a bounce pass to Nesmith. Hield also scored eight, pulling in five boards and five assists, making an impact outside of scoring after hitting a pair of threes early.
Off the bench, Oshae Brissett had eight and five rebounds with Jalen Smith going for eight and nine. The duo played well together, combining for five offensive rebounds and 3-6 from deep, two of which coming from Smith. Smith has continued to play well as the lone five. Bennedict Mathurin had seven points and four rebounds, doing most of his work in the second half, hitting a three to open the fourth and nearly hitting a second, which would’ve given Indiana an 18-point lead early in the quarter.
As it stands, the Pacers didn’t necessarily need that three to pick up the win, shooting 46% from deep overall (ignore the 3-9 in the fourth maybe?), moving back to .500 at 16-16. It gives Indiana a nice clutch win and snaps a two game road skid. It will still be a tall task moving forward, however, with the Pacers heading south just in time to avoid the Arctic freeze, playing the Miami Heat on Friday night.