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Crowder takes it to the hole for two of his career high 25
The Celtics, a defensive stalwart all year, have struggled mightily of late, dropping four straight to fall back to .500 for the season, while having just gave up 120 points to a middling Knicks offense. Well, for their match up with the Pacers, the Celtics returned to their defensive form and the win column, beating the Pacers 103-94.

Four late steals -- two by Jae Crowder, and one apiece for Amir Johnson and Marcus Smart -- led to wide open fast break buckets and gave the Celtics a 97-94 lead with under a minute to play.Soon thereafter, an Isaiah Thomas layup over Ian Mahinmi gave the Celtics a commanding five point lead, and a missed C.J. Miles three led to the usual parade to the free throw line as the Celtics hung on for the victory.

The first quarter was a classic case of "it's not how you start, it's how you finish," as the Celtics opened with a bevy of turnovers to trail 8-0 as the Pacers whipped the ball around and created easy looks for their bigs off simple basket cuts. The C's quickly recovered; after a Brad Stevens timeout, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder sparked a 28-16 close to the frame, with 11 and 9 points respectively. Amir Johnson added 8 rebounds and his usual stout defense to aid in giving the Celtics the lead.

The C's continued to roll in the second, expanding their lead by as much as 9 before heading to the locker room leading 57-49. Evan Turner struggled in the quarter, with two careless turnovers and yet another ill-advised three (Turner has double-digit three point attempts in his last three games despite being the worst distance shooter in the league by percentage) and played sparingly after the second, finishing with 0 points and 4 asssists. Crowder turned a solid first into an offensive explosion, scoring 10 in the second -- including a heat-check pull up 3 -- to finish the half with 19 points on only eight shot attempts. Isaiah continued his steady play, adding four more points and consistently drawing heavy attention on the pick and roll to create looks for Crowder and Kelly Olynyk, who finished the half with 7 points on 3/4 shooting in his new bench role after being replaced in the starting lineup by Jared Sullinger.

The third quarter proved yet again to be a bugaboo (a miserable third quarter doomed the green against the Knicks ), as they lead only 78-76 going into the final frame. Paul George, dormant in the first half, erupted in the third, attacking the basket and drawing contact as he led the Pacers' charge. George tied Crowder at 21 apiece to lead both squads. The Celtics seemed to take control early in the third when two fastbreaks ended in Avery Bradley baskets, but the Pacers rallied back thanks to George and Ian Mahinmi, who finished the quarter one rebound shy of a double double and changed a number of Boston shots at the rim.

Nonetheless, a strong fourth -- especially defensively, with the Celtics forcing Indiana into contested shots most of the final stanza -- allowed the Celtics to take the game, as Isaiah Thomas came through in the waning minutes to finish with 28 points while shooting 50% from the field. Meanwhile, Crodwer built off his stellar first half and tied a career high with 25 points, while Amir Johnson finished with an impressive double-double (!4 points, 18 rebounds) and was only 4 assists away from his first career triple double in helping the Celtics edge out the Pacers.


Brenton Bauerle 1/13/2016 07:32:00 PM Edit
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