Doc Rivers drew up an absolutely brilliant play out of the Celtics’ timeout, using Paul Pierce as a decoy to get Jeff Green a layup off the feed from Kevin Garnett with five-tenths of a second left on the game clock. The Celtics claimed their fourth straight win and a sweep of this road back-to-back.
Garnett had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, and Green once again led Boston off the bench with 11 points and seven boards. The Celtics fended off an irritating Pacers squad that was led by Paul George, who scored 16 points, and David West and Roy Hibbert, who each posted double-doubles.
Fourth quarter, :23.2, game tied 81-81: The Celtics are no strangers to overtime this season, but they probably would prefer to end this now. After a long offensive possession, Garnett finally found Bradley underneath for the tying layup. Then Boston stood tall and turned away the Pacers twice, with Garnett corralling the rebound of a Hibbert miss to give the Celtics the final look.
Fourth quarter, 2:09, Pacers 81-79: Well then. This was marked up as a nice showing for the Celtics against the Eastern Conference’s second-best team, but it looks like the Celtics might not be content with a moral victory.
Terry dropped a floater, Bradley got some help on a goaltending call on his fastbreak layup and Pierce drilled a high, arcing triple to pull Boston within two points late. Here we go.
Fourth quarter, 5:18, Pacers 78-72: Hill is a one-man wrecking crew. He was for the last 59 seconds, anyway, as he went on a personal 8-2 run to extend Indiana’s edge.
Rivers and the rest of the Celtics would really like an explanation from the refs right now, who might be the real wrecking crew. The officials watched idly as Green was hammered on a drive, but they kept their whistles silent. Quickly, that miss turned into a dunk by Hill at the other end.
Fourth quarter, 6:44, Pacers 70-69: They might not let on, but the Pacers are getting worried.
Hibbert, who was a beast on both ends early, passively stepped back on back to back defensive possessions when he switched onto Green. The first resulted in a simple driving layup by Green, the second a makeable righty hook sweeping across the lane that came up short.
Garnett caught Hibbert with a between the legs crossover (yup, this guy is a 7-footer) and drained a free throw line jumper to pull Boston within one, just as Pierce prepares to re-enter the game.
Fourth quarter, 8:55, Pacers 70-65: Garnett and Hibbert have been battling in the trenches all game, which is why Hibbert is the only Indiana player in any real foul trouble. The refs pretty much said “Don’t hurt us!” and whistled KG and Roy for a double foul, whatever that means.
End of third quarter, Pacers 68-58: Things are getting personal at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In addition to Pierce and Stephenson’s conversation, the rest of the Celtics are starting to get exasperated with the foul disparity. The Celtics have drawn only eight fouls and attempted just seven free throws so far, one of which came on a defensive three-second violation.
If the Celtics do not get a call soon, somebody is going to get mighty upset. (Our money is on Garnett.)
Third quarter, 4:07, Pacers 63-53: Pierce got a bit offended by Stephenson, a relative whipper-snapper compared to the 35-year-old Pierce, showing him the ball and then firing up an airball. Pierce let the young’un know how he felt about that, and the two kept jawing the next three or four times up and down the floor.
Stephenson would be well served to not tick off the future Hall of Famer, and Pierce may want to turn his attention to more important matters. Namely, working out of his 2-for-9 shooting slump and wiping out this double-digit deficit.
Third quarter, 5:36, Pacers 62-49: Well, the Celtics have done just what they need to do to turn around that foul number. They have started going to the hoop more often, which usually leads to more fouls. Pierce and Lee have been particularly aggressive.
The officials have yet to reward the Celtics for their efforts, though. Pierce was visibly upset when a drive to the basket did not produce a bucket or a foul, and halfway through the third quarter the Pacers have been whistled for all of six fouls. The Celtics have picked up 13.
Halftime, Pacers 47-42: Pierce has been around, so he knows exactly how much time he needs to dedicate to each and every one of his moves. His familiarity with, well, himself paid off when he used up all 14.4 seconds exactly to score a running layup as the clock expired.
Aside from the last play, though, Pierce has had a rough time so far. George and Stephenson have each taken their turns checking Pierce, who is 1-for-6 with two costly turnovers. The Pacers are strong defensively everywhere, but especially so on the wing, where George is one of the best in the game.
The Celtics have a 12-5 deficit in fouls, as you probably have heard a certain announcer complaining about, but take a look at the points in the paint breakdown. The Pacers have 30 to the Celtics’ 12, because the Pacers are attacking and getting out on the break (where they have an 18-9 advantage), and those situations lead to fouls.
Second quarter, 5:57, Pacers 32-26: This is the case whenever the Pacers play, of course, but Tyler Hansbrough is already well under his opponents’ skin. Green and White have had to deal with the UNC alum’s shenanigans, and it even led to a foul on Green tussling with Hansbrough for a rebound.
It is always tough to call out any Celtics opponent for instigating. Garnett is an all-time master, after all. But there is a big divide between the gamesmanship employed by Hall of Fame players like Garnett, Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman and the actions of fringe pros like Hansbrough.
But hey, he is getting paid. Can’t hate on that.
Second quarter, 8:17, Pacers 30-24: D.J. White made his Celtics debut, fittingly, in the state where he made a name for himself in college ball. The IU alum joined a lineup heavy with his benchmates to begin the second quarter and immediately helped narrow the gap, however slightly. The bench unit of Green, Terry, Jordan Crawford and White looks better prepared to match the energy of Indiana’s Hibbert-less lineup.
End of first quarter, Pacers 27-19: Listen, we tried to warn you. These Pacers can play, and they are giving the Celtics a heaping helping of that league-best defense right now.
The Celtics missed 15 of the 23 shots they took on the first quarter and were outrebounded 16-10. A six-rebound differential is massive for just 12 minutes of action — that translates to a difference of 24 rebounds in the game, for those of you scoring at home. Hibbert has been dominant in ways he has not been consistently all year, scoring 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting as Indiana scored 14 points in the paint to Boston’s two.
First quarter, 3:00, Pacers 20-19: Hibbert is playing so well, Boston’s best course of action is to get him in foul trouble. That is exactly what they have done, sending Hibbert to the pine with two personal fouls just eight minutes into the action.
The Pacers play well enough without Granger, but let’s see how well they do without- two of their top players.
First quarter, 5:26, Pacers 16-13: Roy Hibbert figures to spend a lot of time in the paint, so Garnett can expect to be open for his patented 18-footers whenever he wants.
The Celtics’ big man responded by draining his first three shots, including a straight-away 3-pointer, in the first two minutes. Hibbert has been just fine down low, thank you, scoring eight points on a variety of lefty hooks, righty hooks and two-handed putback dunks.
Offense has not come easily for Indiana’s 7-foot-2 behemoth, so this is a good sign for the Pacers as the playoffs approach — and bad news for the Celtics on this night.
6:23 p.m.: The Pacers will not give the Celtics the runaround when it comes to whether Danny Granger will be in the lineup. The Pacers forward, who has been limited to five games this season with a knee injury, is not expected to play for Indiana.
That only makes beating Indiana marginally easier. They still have their three most important players suited up in Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George, and George Hill will be no picnic for Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee to check. The Celtics’ fight for a fourth straight win will not be easy.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: The Celtics are in for a real test. After taking care of business with wins over the Warriors and Sixers — wins that should be expected — they drive into Indianapolis to face one of the league’s toughest up-and-coming squads.
The Pacers (38-22) are really good, especially defensively. They allow the second-fewest points per game and hold opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in the league. For an old-school, grinding defensive club, they provide something for the advanced stats crowd, too. They lead the league in defensive efficiency at just 96.2 points per 100 possessions allowed and also hold their opponents to the league’s lowest effective field goal percentage, which gives 3-pointers more weight due to the extra point you get for making those shots.
In case you have not caught our drift, the Pacers are a quality opponent, and the Celtics (32-27) would make a statement by beating them.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m. ET.