We can all use a few days off after this one.
As expected, the Pacers doused the Celtics on Sunday, but that didn’t make it any easier to watch. In every manner and from every angle, the Pacers dominated the Celtics just as one would expect from one of the three best teams, record-wise, in the NBA. But Lance Stephenson added insult to injury in the Celtics’ 106-79 loss.
Stephenson, the fourth-year shooting guard who has blossomed under Pacers coach Frank Vogel, had his third career triple-double and second straight triple-double against the Celtics. In addition to his 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Stephenson contributed some taunts and trash talk to his night’s work. After crossing up Courtney Lee and draining a step-back jumper, Stephenson stood for an extra second with his legs split before thrusting his pelvis toward Boston’s bench.
Those types of acts would draw a hard foul once upon a time, and Kris Humphries tried to send a warning shot the next time Stephenson came down the lane. But the flagrant foul one-and-two system has taken away much of the players’ ability to police themselves, so Stephenson was mostly able to yap away without fear of retribution.
The best that can be said for the Celtics was that Lee managed to almost hold Stephenson from getting the final basket he needed for double-digits. After Stephenson hit a 20-foot jumper early in the fourth to reach nine points, he missed his next six shots. It wasn’t until he got the ball in secondary transition with a mismatch against Kelly Olynyk that he was able to find the bottom of the net with a pull-up 3-pointer.
The Celtics get three days off from practice and five days until their next game, so there is plenty of time for Stephenson’s antics to smolder in their memories. These teams play two more times, though, so expect something to come Stephenson’s way the next time these teams meet.
Maybe it was the three fouls he picked up in the first half. Maybe it was the unfavorable matchup with the towering Roy Hibbert. Maybe it was the ankle he tweaked in Saturday’s game that was still bothering him.
For whatever reason, Jared Sullinger was far less effective than the Celtics have gotten accustomed to him being. He played just 16 minutes and was held to six points on 3-for-9 shooting. Humphries, Olynyk and Vitor Faverani all got more minutes in the second half, despite only Humphries seeming to play fairly well.
Jeff Green finally changed his trend of disappearing in the second half. In this case, he just disappeared in the first half.
Green lurched out of the gate with just three points before halftime, although he did find his stride somewhat with eight points on 3-for-6 shooting in the second half. But he was whistled for three fouls in the second half as well, so there wasn’t much positive Green could take away from his performance.
This is becoming a problem for the Celtics. Not only is Green hurting his team by fading into the background at bad times, he’s also hurting any chance the Celtics have of boosting his trade value to other teams. He’s a $9 million player who has now scored three points total in the fourth quarters of three straight losses. That’s not so good.