Pacers trying to knock out Celtics in IST quarterfinals
The Pacers will need all of the good energy and winning effort they delivered in beating the Heat, without Tyrese Haliburton, on Saturday.
The Pacers host the Celtics on Monday night in the NBA’s In-Season Tournament quarterfinals or as the league states it, the Knockout Round. The winner moves onto the semis in Vegas while the loser will fill out their schedule later.
With eight teams left in the IST, the NBA will put a spotlight on the FIeldhouse as the only early game of the night, broadcast on TNT. The Kings will host the Pelicans in the nightcap.
Boston scored 155 points against the Pacers earlier in the season, en route to a 51-point win over the Pacers, who were without Tyrese Haliburton. The length (and talent) of the C’s was the primary problem, but the Pacers’ 5 for 37 effort from behind the arc helped fortify that final deficit.
In the hunt for positives, Haliburton remains questionable, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t answer the bell, if he feels at least decent. Also, Kristaps Porzingis has been out with a calf injury and is reportedly expected to miss this one. That’s at least one less lengthy problem the Celtics can throw at the Pacers.
Honestly, one of the biggest concerns about this matchup is that it will be a playoff-type situation, and all of the accountants in the NBA’s New York offices would surely prefer the Celtics remain in the IST as long as possible. Sure, the Pacers are a great early-season story, with a budding superstar.
But Celtics vs. Bucks (or Knicks) would be a better ratings draw. So, what kind of whistle can the Pacers expect in this one. If I hadn’t seen it so often in the past, I wouldn’t be worried, but here we are. As Paul George would lament after feeling slighted by the refs in big games against the Heat, “That’s Indiana for you.” The Pacers are foul-prone enough this year, so they don’t need an additional tight whistle to add to the mix. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
Quality win in Miami
TJ McConnell had one of him most productive nights, not only doing his usual TJMac kind of stuff, but also adding a little extra, and very efficient, offense. McConnell finished with 20 points on 11 two-point shots. Yep, he made 10 of ‘em. McConnell and Andrew Nembhard both had 11 assists, but McConnell gave the Pacers the boost they needed off the bench to take and maintain the lead. He picked up Nembhard who was struggling through yet another rough shooting night (1-9).
Bruce Brown picked up a heavy offensive load with Haliburton out, finishing with 30 points helped by making 4 of 6 three-balls. Brown seemed to enjoy playing in front of his college coach, Jim Larranaga who enjoyed seeing his former player light up the Heat.
Our ol’ friend CC, often remarks that the Pacers defense just needs to be bad, instead of horrible (horrific, disgusting, pick a descriptor) and they were a little better than bad, against the Heat. Sure they gave up 129 points. Yes, Jimmy Butler score 33 points. But the Pacers in general, and Obi Toppin in particular, made Butler work for his supper, requiring 23 shots and naturally, a few fouls after he created contact. Regardless, Toppin’s size and his effort to just stay in front and stay grounded worked quite well, keeping Butler at bay early while the Pacers survived their own slow start.
With all that was going well, Butler had a scary stretch in the fourth quarter when it appeared he would get a favorable whistle and the Pacers incredible effort up to that point, might fade away down the stretch. Around the 5:30 minute mark in the fourth quarter, Butler made his way to the hoop, scored and drew a foul to convert a three-point play. What had been a 12-point lead a minute earlier, was suddenly down to six.
But Brucie B answered with two. Then after Butler scored, again it was TJ McConnell’s turn to answer with his patented mid-range jumper. Technically, the Pacers could win by swapping bucket from this point forward, but dueling Butler who can get to the line, as well is not the way to go.
Then something magical happened.
The Pacers earned TWO defensive stops which lead to a three-point play by Obi Toppin and then two free throws for Aaron Nesmith. The lead was back to double digits and the Pacers were able to bring home the 144-129 win from there.
While the Pacers were without Haliburton, the Heat were missing Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, but regardless, earning the split in Miami without their All-Star was a quality win for the Pacers.
They will need all of that positive mojo from Miami, along with Haliburton, to make a run at the IST semis in Vegas, by beating the Celtics. Should be a blast at the Fieldhouse.
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton, Bruce Brown, Buddy Hield, Obi Toppin, Myles Turner
Celtics: Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton (illness) - questionable, Jalen Smith (heel, knee) - out
Celtics: Kristaps Porzingis (calf) - out
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