New starting five, same result.
With Marcus Smart sidelined due to a sprained left toe, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens went with three new starters for Wednesday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The unit kept Boston in the game, but the Celtics just couldn’t finish down the stretch. Pacers guard Monta Ellis hit a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left in regulation, and Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer at the buzzer fell short to give Indiana a 100-98 win, its first of the season.
Paul George led the Pacers with 26 points, while point guard Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 27 points. Bradley added a season-high 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting as the Celtics fell to 1-3 on the young season.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson
SIXTH FIRST MAN
For a change, the Celtics’ leading scorer also started the game.
Thomas made his first start as a Celtic on Wednesday night with Smart out of the lineup, and he rose to the challenge. Thomas scored at his usual impressive rate, but he also did a nice job creating for others, embracing his role as lead facilitator by tallying a team-high seven assists.
The Celtics missed Smart on the defensive end, however, as the Pacers opened up a six-point first quarter lead by exploiting second-chance opportunities and mismatches with Boston’s new unit.
Stevens’ new unit found its rhythm in the second half, however.
The five that started the game also played the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter. Thanks to seven quick points from Jared Sullinger, Boston erased a six-point halftime deficit and quickly got back into a contest that would seesaw throughout the remaining 16 minutes of action.
HANDLE WITH CARE
Turnovers have plagued Boston early this season, and they were an issue again Wednesday night.
The Celtics did a good enough job defensively but committed 10 turnovers in the first half alone, which led to 12 Pacers points. Boston ended the game with 19 turnovers (a season-high), which the Pacers converted into 22 points.
Boston also struggled on the offensive glass, as Indiana tallied 21 offensive rebounds on the night to the Celtics’ 15.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
A pair of rookies saw their first significant NBA action Wednesday night.
Terry Rozier entered the game in the first quarter after playing just two minutes in Boston’s season opener, while R.J. Hunter — who grew up in Indianapolis — made his NBA debut in front of family and friends.
Rozier didn’t record a bucket in six minutes of action, while Hunter finished with two points in 13 minutes after sticking a mid-range jumper in the first half. He was called for an offensive foul later in the game, but his father — Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter — didn’t care too much for the call.
PLAY OF THE NIGHT
Is there really any debate?
The Celtics will return to TD Garden on Friday night to take on John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards, who notched a thrilling last-second win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images