Final, Pacers win 97-82: Six losses in a row it is for the Celtics.
The memories of their four-game win streak are long gone, although the Celtics can say for the second straight game that they played with one of the NBA’s elite teams — for a while. But the Pacers, like the Spurs before them, showed why they’re title contenders and the Celtics are not.
The Celtics led at halftime but fell behind for good thanks to an eight-point third quarter that was every bit as disastrous as it sounds.
Paul George and David West, who were no-shows in the first half with five points each, finished with 27 and 17, respectively. Meanwhile, Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford, who got off to strong starts, sputtered to the finish. Crawford hit his first nine shots but took just three the rest of the way, making one. He still finished with a team-high 24 points, although he committed six of Boston’s 21 turnovers.
Fourth quarter, 3:00, Pacers 90-75: It would take a miraculous comeback by the Celtics to win this now. All evidence previously suggests they don’t have it in them, but we’ll see.
Lance Stephenson tossed a long outlet pass to Paul George for a dunk that gave Stephenson his 10th assists and his second triple-double in five games. Those are the first two triple-doubles of his career.
Fourth quarter, 6:40, Pacers 77-66: The Celtics have such a narrow margin for error, they can’t afford to miss any chance to cut into the lead.
Sullinger had a stepback jumper that nestled halfway down before popping out. That shot would have cut Boston’s deficit to seven points. Instead, the Pacers went down the other end and Scola drained an elbow jumper to extend Indy’s lead to 11 points.
That’s a four-point swing against a team the Celtics can’t afford to give away four-point swings against.
Fourth quarter, 8:45, Pacers 71-63: The Pacers win games like this, so the Celtics are already in a tough spot. But if they are to win, they’ll need more plays like the ones Courtney Lee has given them.
Lee has two nice defensive plays, coming off the ball to get his hands in for a pair of steals. The Celtics were not able to convert because of a disorganized offense — or because the Pacers have gotten their defense back in order and are just making the Celtics look bad.
End of third quarter, Pacers 67-58: It was fun while it lasted, Celtics, but the Pacers will be taking control of this game now. Thanks.
Led by West and George, the Pacers vaulted into the lead with about as complete a quarter as a team can have. Whatever the opposite of “led” is, Green did it for the Celtics.
The Celtics scored eight points in the third quarter. Eight. They were 3-for-14 from the field and committed nine turnovers in that quarter alone. George scored eight points in the frame and West had 10 points.
With one quarter left to play, the Celtics have attempted three free throws. Until Green knocked down two in the third, the Celtics had attempted one — and it came on a defensive three-second violation.
The Celtics’ shooting has come down to earth after their hot start, as expected. But their turnover issues have gotten worse, not better, and they’ve found it impossible to score as a result.
Third quarter, 7:03, Celtics 54-53: David West has had enough. The Pacers power forward is ready for his team to get the lead, thank you very much.
West has come out ballin’ all over the court to begin the second half. He has six points and three rebounds since halftime, plus a steal from Avery Bradley beyond the 3-point line to set up Lance Stephenson for a breakaway dunk.
Roy Hibbert and Paul George tend to get most of the attention on the Pacers, but West is a massive part of what they do. He’s one of the game’s best two-way fours and he is showing it in the third quarter.
Halftime, Celtics 50-42: Nevermind that Pacers comeback for now. The Celtics have all the answers.
Jeff Green is up to the task against Paul George, who he is thoroughly outplaying thus far. Green has 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting and his last shot, a wing 3-pointer, barely rattled out. Jordan Crawford has also played well, drilling a three to beat the shot clock and then uncorking a 30-footer at the end of the half, which he banked in. Crawford leads all scorers with 19 points on 8-for-8 shooting.
It’s been that kind of night for him.
Shockingly, the Celtics are winning the battle of points in the paint 26-16 and have held steady on the glass, where they only trail 18-16. Shooting 59 percent helps, and they’ll have to either keep up that hot shooting or cut down on their turnovers. The Celtics committed seven turnovers in the first half and were only saved by the fact that the Pacers had nine.
Roy Hibbert, who Jared Sullinger is annoying the heck out of, has been a net loss for Indy. He has four points, one rebound and three turnovers so far, plus two fouls. Backup forward Luis Scola is the Pacers’ leading scorer with seven points. George has five on 2-for-7 shooting.
Second quarter, 5:23, game tied 33-33: With Hibbert and George not playing particularly well, the Pacers have turned to Ian Mahinmi. Naturally.
Mahinmi has four points and helped keep one play alive by sneaking around Sullinger to tip a missed shot to Lance Stephenson. The Pacers fell behind early because their starters didn’t hustle. Now they’re pulling back into the game because their bench has.
Second quarter, 8:38, Celtics 31-28: The Celtics still have the lead, despite Gerald Wallace’s best efforts.
In just seven minutes of court time, Wallace already has three turnovers, plus an off-target pass to Bradley that the Pacers turned into a fastbreak chance.
The Celtics have survived thanks to defense and outlet passes, which led to back-to-back dunks by Brandon Bass and Wallace. The latter came after an exquisite full-court heave from Bradley to Wallace ahead of the pack.
End of first quarter, Celtics 25-22: Jeff Green must have heard of Paul George — a bit too much, in fact.
Green has come out ready for this matchup with one of the game’s elite players. He has six points and has taken George, who may be longer but is 25 pounds lighter, into the post for a pair of nifty spinning buckets.
The Celtics have led by as many as five points and have done a great job thus far of keeping Indy off the glass. The rebounding battle is an even 8-8 and the Celtics have held the Pacers to just one offensive rebound, a putback by Luis Scola on the final possession of the first quarter.
First quarter, 4:42, Celtics 17-13: So far, the Celtics have shown no fear of Roy Hibbert. And the Pacers big man looks almost surprised by that.
Jeff Green took it hard to the hoop and toppled Hibbert with a driving layup, and Jared Sullinger was in Hibbert’s chest until Brad Stevens subbed him out for Vitor Faverani. Kelly Olynyk even gave Hibbert something to remember him by with a step-back jump shot from the baseline.
The Celtics will need to keep Hibbert, the best defensive center in the league, busy at both ends if they are to stay competitive all night.
6:23 p.m.: From Chuck “The Rifleman” Person to eight points in nine seconds, the Pacers accelerated into Indiana native Brad Stevens’ heart and never left. Now they are arguably the best team in basketball and are in TD Garden preparing to take on his own team, which is definitely not the best team in basketball.
“I grew up a Pacers fan and that was the team I rooted for for the first 36 years of my life,” Stevens said. “Now, they’ve got the best team I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Of course that’s how it works, right?”
Stevens will try to help his new favorite team top his old favorite team tonight. The Celtics will start Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger for the second straight game, although Stevens wouldn’t say how permanent the lineup would be. The starting five has been in flux all season as Stevens has mixed and matched new combinations.
The projected starters are below.
8 a.m. ET: It never gets any easier in the NBA. There are no Hanovers or IUPUIs coming up on the roster for Brad Stevens like there were at Butler.
The Pacers (10-1) are playing as well as any team in the league as they arrive in Boston to take on the Celtics (4-9). Only the Spurs are humming along as swimmingly as the Pacers, and guess what? The Celtics just played the Spurs, too. It’s almost like the NBA is hand-picking bad matchups to kick the Celtics while they’re down.
Jared Sullinger will look to continue his strong play. He is averaged 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in his last four games and showed no signs of backing down from Tim Duncan or Dwight Howard in his last two games. He had better be ready for a battle because Roy Hibbert and David West won’t back down from him, either.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.