Final, Pacers win 106-79: Lance Stephenson got his triple-double, Indiana’s fans got to chant “Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye” like a bunch of high schoolers and the Celtics suffered their third straight loss.
It’s a fine line for the Celtics, but by blowing double-digit leads in their two previous games, they have now lost five of their last seven games. This one was ugly, but it was expected.
Stephenson finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third career triple-double and Paul George poured in 24 points to lead Indiana (22-5) past the Celtics (12-17). Avery Bradley cooled off after a hot start to lead the Celtics with 13 points but was just 6-for-14 from the field. Jeff Green was another no-show, getting 11 points, tied with Courtney Lee, who did most of his production in garbage time.
Fourth quarter, 4:19, Pacers 97-73: Lance Stephenson has his triple-double. It must be something about playing the Celtics.
Stephenson has his third career triple-double and second straight against the Celtics. Courtney Lee held him scoreless for most of the fourth quarter before Stephenson drew Kelly Olynyk in transition and drained a standstill three over the rookie.
That’s that. Let’s get out of Indy and enjoy the holiday, Celts.
Fourth quarter, 6:26, Pacers 92-67: Without Danny Granger, the Pacers are contenders. With him, they could be scary.
Granger is 4-for-5 from distance as Indy has put the screws to the Celtics again. Kelly Olynyk is looking out of his element even against backup big men Ian Mahinmi and Luis Scola.
The Celtics’ main motivation now has to be to keep trash-talking Lance Stephenson from a triple-double. The yappy shooting guard has nine points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds with plenty of time left to get his final bucket or free throw unless Boston holds him scoreless the rest of the way.
Fourth quarter, 8:56, Pacers 85-63: Courtney Lee is going to end up on a lot of highlight reels, and not in a good way. Lance Stephenson, who is having a nice game and isn’t afraid to tell everybody about it, made Lee slip on defense before Stephenson hit a step-back jump shot.
Stephenson then stopped, posed and gave a weird little pelvic thrust toward Boston’s bench. All right.
Lee has had some decent moments, including two steals and a blocked shot from behind on C.J. Watson. Lee was rewarded after the block when he got the ball on the break and nailed a 3-pointer in transition.
End of third quarter, Pacers 80-58: The best thing the Celtics can say about this game is that there are only 12 minutes left.
Paul George had a quiet first half, cruising into the break with just six points because that was all Indy needed from him. In the third quarter, he was a little better. Just a little.
George scored 18 points in the third, just three points fewer than Boston scored as a team in the quarter. Jeff Green, who has had 2 1/2 rough games, started to find a bit of a rhythm with eight points on 3-for-6 shooting.
But Green, like the rest of the Celtics, are growing frustrated. They have been whistled for 18 fouls to the Pacers’ 13 and have taken just eight free throws, while the Pacers have taken 20. The officiating, combined with the Pacers’ overall play, has led to some slumped shoulders and frustration from the guys in green.
Third quarter, 8:23, Pacers 62-41: And the rout is on.
Paul George announced that when he nabbed a deep pass over his shoulder and was right in stride for an open layup. Instead, he tossed the ball behind his head to a streaking George Hill for a layup.
The result was the same — two points for Indy either way — but George’s pass sent a clear message. The Pacers don’t feel the need to worry about the Celtics stopping a good look at the hoop, so they can pass it off for a different good look.
Halftime, Pacers 52-37: With their best player battling foul trouble, the Celtics performed about how you’d expect.
Jared Sullinger spent the majority of the first half on the bench thanks to three personal fouls, frustrating the young forward and leaving the already undersized Celtics another big man down in the post. With Sullinger out, the Celtics were forced to turn to Vitor Faverani, who not surprisingly had a little trouble with Roy Hibbert.
Sullinger was effective when he was in, scoring six points and blocking two shots in less than 12 minutes. But Hibbert has a good game’s worth of production already with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, and multiple other plays that won’t show up in the box score.
The Celtics are shooting just 38 percent and aren’t getting easy shots for each other, either. They have just five assists on 15 field goals, while the Pacers have 17 assists on 21 field goals.
Second quarter, 4:07, Pacers 40-26: Eventually, the Celtics were going to get a basket in the paint. They had to.
More than a quarter and a half into the game, the Celtics finally got their first official points in the paint when Sullinger scored off a scrum underneath the basket. That’s 20-2 in favor of the Pacers on paint scoring now, which is no small part of the reason Indy is so clearly in control.
Second quarter, 7:04, Pacers 32-23: Forget that stuff about gravy. This is just starting to turn into a hot mess.
The Pacers have scored seven unanswered points since it was knotted up, with Phil Pressey losing the ball on a failed crossover dribble and an ill-advised pass from Kris Humphries taking Courtney Lee straight out of bounds. It was Boston’s sixth turnover of the game, and we’ve seen how damaging turnovers can be to the Celtics, for whom every possession is precious.
Second quarter, 8:31, Pacers 25-23: It’s not exactly the Dream Team, but the motley lineup the Celtics have on the court is doing a pretty nice job of keeping it close.
Courtney Lee, who expressed unhappiness with his minutes Saturday, hit a jumper to help the Celtics’ cause. Kelly Olynyk also has a pair of jumpers, and Kris Humphries has knocked down an 18-footer.
Defensively, it hasn’t been as pretty. Olynyk was unfortunate to get in the way of Ian Mahinmi, who drew an and-one dunk on the rook to break what was a 23-23 tie. Whatever the Celtics can do with their second unit is gravy, since the starting five is challenging enough.
End of first quarter, Pacers 20-17: Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass have done their best against some fearsome front lines, but they have their work cut out for them tonight.
Roy Hibbert and David West make up one of the most skilled and toughest center-forward combos in the league, never mind one of the biggest. Hibbert already has 10 points and five boards as the Celtics just have nobody to contend with his combination of size and skill. The Pacers have pitched a 14-0 shutout in the paint so far.
Avery Bradley is feeling it, as he’s taken seven shots already. (The Celtics have taken 20 shots as a team.) Fortunately for the Celtics — and for him — he’s hitting, good for a team-high nine points to help the Celtics stay close with the Pacers.
First quarter, 5:42, Pacers 10-8: So far, not so bad for the Celtics.
At some point, this game is expected to turn into an easy Indiana win, but Avery Bradley and the Celtics are doing their best to match the Pacers early. The Pacers play relatively slowly, so a two-point lead is more like an eight-point lead for most clubs. Still, the fact that the Celtics haven’t been run out of the gym yet is a statement.
Bradley has six of Boston’s eight points, picking up right where he left off in Saturday’s fourth quarter. Players not named Bradley for Boston are just 1-for-8 from the field, however.
5:10 p.m.: The Celtics get an extended break for the holiday, but before they can depart for some quality time with family and friends, there’s one more big obstacle for them to face.
The No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers, welcome Celtics coach Brad Stevens home for the holidays. Stevens said his rooting section won’t be as big as you might expect for the native Hoosier, and that’s a good thing. He won’t have much time to send his love while he’s dealing with the Pacers.
The good news for the Celtics is, they get three days without practice and five days without any games after this one. But they’ll have to earn that break.
The projected starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Brad Stevens will be home for Christmas.
“My wife’s happy about it,” Stevens said.
Stevens himself might not be as thrilled, since his homecoming first requires a trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to take on the Pacers. Although Indiana (21-5) isn’t looking as fearsome as it was earlier in the season, when it opened up with a nine-game win streak, but the Pacers still control the best record in the Eastern Conference.
They also can boast that they are in the running for three major awards: Paul George for MVP, Roy Hibbert for defensive player of the year and Frank Vogel for coach of the year.
The Celtics (12-16) will be tasked with keeping those three from performing at their award-worthy best on Sunday. If this is what it takes for Stevens to get some Hoosier State holiday cheer, the Celtics coach might just say, “Bah, humbug.”
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. ET.
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