Indianapolis, IN -- The Celtics last saw the Pacers up close and personal on January 13th at the Garden when they scored 103 points and closed out a win on a 12-0 run. The previous two match-ups were November games, both resulting in loss column checkmarks for the C's. During those fall meetings, the Celtics allowed the Pacers to score 100+ points. Ironically, it would be a 103-point game for Indiana that secured their 3rd win against the Celtics this season.
Boston was without both Kelly Olynyk (for the 12th straight game) and Jae Crowder in their last regular season visit to Indianapolis. At 5:45p EST, it was announced that Olynyk would in fact remain inactive and Marcus Smart would take Crowder's spot in the starting five.
Five starters scoring double-digits, stronger rebounding and a better free-throw percentage weren't enough for the C's to take this one. The Pacers' 3-point percentage (45.5%) v. the Celtics (25%) including Paul George shooting 66% from 3-point range would be one of the difference makers with the C's making just 8 of 32 attempts.
CELTICS Starting Line-up: Avery Bradley, Amir Johnson, Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger and Isaiah Thomas.
PACERS Starting Line-up: Monta Ellis, Paul George, George Hill, Ian Mahinmi and Myles Turner.
Opening jump would go to the Pacers. The 1st points of the game wouldn't be until Jared Sullinger scored two with almost two minutes gone off the clock. Monta Ellis would make the first bucket for the Pacers from 3-pt territory. With 8 minutes to go, Marcus Smart -- making his first start since November 20th -- made a 3-pointer to put the C's up 7-3. Smart came out of the gates aggressive and unafraid in his starting role but shot just 2/7 and finished the half 4/11. A Paul George step-back would bring Indiana within two in a so far offensively quiet 1st quarter. Around the 6-minute mark, George would head to the bench with two fouls.
Midway through the quarter, Jonas Jerebko and Evan Turner entered the game replacing Smart and Amir Johnson. Isaiah Thomas would quickly find Jerebko for an open three. 7 turnovers for the Pacers by the 3-minute mark and the Celtics would take their largest lead of 7. Rodney Stuckey would come in for the Pacers second unit and make a lay-up to cut the C's lead to 5. The Turner/Jerebko duo was proving efficient and Terry Rozier got the first chance for the Celtics' young crop, alongside Tyler Zeller, in for Thomas. Solomon Hill tied the game at 20 on a made layup. Last shot of the 1st would be a missed jump shot by Monta Ellis. Jerebko would lead all Celtics with 7 points for the quarter. Ian Mahinmi with the same for Indiana. 7 turnovers for the Pacers to the Celtics' 5. Indiana grabbing 5 steals.
The quarter started with both teams shooting less than 40%. Avery Bradley would join the C's second unit to start the 2nd. A Stuckey pull-up two were the 1st points of the quarter and a successful Turner/Jerebko connection would mean two more for the Celtics. Boston had 11 field goals and 11 assists at the 9:30 minute mark. With the game tied at 24, a Joe Young three for the Pacers and a George fall away at the baseline would quickly push the Pacers up by 5. Coty Clarke -- recently called up by the Celtics from the Maine Red Claws -- would see some time in the quarter. Almost halfway through the 2nd, Sullinger went to the line attempting the first free throws of the night for the Celtics, he'd make 1/2. Clarke would knock down a three to bring the C's within three (33-30) but a 15 footer would follow from Indiana's George. A fast break layup from George Hill put the Pacers up two more and the Celtics would need a time out. Jared Sullinger is still the only Celtic to go to the line at this point, taking his second trip and having made 2/4.
A Myles Turner three would give the Pacers their biggest lead (39-33) but then answered by Sullinger, making a basket at the other end. With 3 minutes to play in the half, C's were shooting 37% compared to the Pacers at 51%. A Mahinmi two gave Indiana their first double digit lead of the game. Jerebko would join the starters and replace Sullinger to close out the quarter and help cut the lead with two more points. Two made free throws from Smart brought the Celtics to within 4. A missed fall away by Thomas would end the quarter with the Pacers up 4 and having made 8 points off Celtics' turnovers.
Score at the half: Pacers 43, Celtics 39
Leading scorers at the half: Jerebko, 11 and Paul George 8.
An Indiana goal tend would mean two for Johnson and a 2-point lead for the Pacers. Ball movement and some assertive pick and rolls are noticeably in the mix to start this half for the C's. Also noticeable is Johnson's impact to kick-off this quarter. In the first 3 minutes of the 2nd half, he had 6 points and would give the Celtics their first lead of the half. George Hill's 3rd foul would send Thomas to the free throw line where he'd make both. 8 assists for Thomas so far in the contest. Despite a hustle play by Smart to keep the ball alive, it would go the other way with Mahinmi scoring his 11th point of the night. Not to be outdone, Thomas would shoot back up the court to sink a three. At the 6-minute mark, an unquestionably confident Isaiah's line would be 9 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds. A visit to the line for him put the C's up by 3 (54-51). The last 7 points scored were courtesy of Thomas. A Myles Turner falling-to-the-floor desperate dish to Monta Ellis made three would tie the game again. A missed three and his own put back layup would put Thomas back on the line. George Hill would leave the game with four fouls. 8 points and 9 rebounds for Johnson and the Celtics were up 3 points with just under 4 minutes to go in the quarter.
Back-to-back baskets by Paul George would give Indiana a 1-point lead. More made free throws by Thomas would have Boston making 12/14 to Indiana's 3/4. Johnson and Thomas had combined for 19 of the C's 21 points in the 3rd quarter until this point. A Thomas three followed by a George dunk would leave the Celtics up 2 points with two minutes to play in the 3rd. An Ellis jumper would tie the game up once more. A battle for the ball between Thomas and Jordan Hill would put Hill on the line for two shots, making 1/2. A quick release jumper from Evan Turner and two more free throws from George tied the teams with under 30 seconds left. An Ellis-made bucket complete with euro step would end the quarter. After three quarters, Indiana led 71-70 and had out shot Boston 48% to 38%. Celtics had an impressive 14 second-chance points for the game thus far.
Terry Rozier would start the 4th with Zeller, Jerebko, Bradley and Turner. The opening 5 points of the quarter were all Indiana, including two from Jordan Hill. The Celtics first 4th quarter points would be from Jerebko from three and making 14 points for him on the night. A Rozier jump hook off a screen would put him on the board with two. With 8 minutes to play, a Turner on Turner foul would put Evan on the line with two made free throws and a Celtics' 1-point lead. George Hill making his free throws gave Indiana back the lead and he'd have just 6 points in his 23 minutes. More made free throws -- this time from Paul George -- held Indiana's lead (80-77) with the Celtics shooting 35% and fighting to keep it close but having shot 2/10 in the quarter. Halfway through the quarter, a Boston turnover would lead to a Jordan Hill dunk. Sullinger making two would keep the C's within 3 points.
With under 5 minutes to go, the Pacers had opened up the lead to 5 but a Bradley 17-footer would shrink it back to three. With time running out, another missed three for the C's would translate to 6 for 27 from three-point land for Boston. The Celtics would trail by 7 points going into a time out and just over 2 minutes left to go. An Ellis three, paired with a Paul George dunk kept the C's needing 10 points to manage a tie again. Made free throws by Jerebko and Sullinger kept the Celtics within 9 points. Sullinger made a three with 40 seconds on the clock and the Pacers led by 8. Four-in-a-row missed free throws -- Lavoy Allen and George Hill -- by the Pacers allowed Boston to stay within 6 points late but it wasn't enough to overcome their 4th quarter deficit.
FINAL: Pacers 103 Celtics 98
LEADING SCORERS: Thomas, 21 and Paul George, 25. Jonas Jerebko with a season-high 17.
Photo Credit: Michael Conroy, AP.
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