Donning their Hickory High alternate jerseys of Hoosiers' fame, the Indiana Pacers came into Boston and edged one out over the Celtics, 99-97. Marcus Smart had himself a night, leading the Celtics in just about every statistical category including scoring as he dropped a team-high 20 points on 6-13 shooting (all 6 of those makes came from three). He recorded a near triple-double with 8 assists and 7 rebounds and a whopping 4 steals to boot. Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier chipped in with 19 and 16 points respectively, but it wasn't enough to overcome the absence of some of their other stars.

For the Pacers, Victor Oladipo was every bit the star advertised as he finished with 27 points, including some huge buckets late in the game when they needed him to close out. Myles Turner had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Bojan Bogdanovic was sharp form the outside going 4 of 5 from deep and scoring 14 points.

The C's were missing some key pieces heading into tonight's matchup. Jaylen Brown was missing as he's been placed under the NBA's Concussion Protocol after his scary fall from the rim Thursday night, and Al Horford was a late scratch due to an illness.

Despite missing two of their starters the Celtics got off to a good start. Marcus Smart started in the place of Brown and was a force early. He ripped a very Smart-esque steal, drew a charge, knocked down a pair of threes, and finished the 1st quarter with 3 rebounds and three assists with the C's up 25-24.

They ratcheted up the defense in the 2nd quarter, holding the Pacers to 16 points and marching into halftime with a 10-point lead, 50-40. The C's spread the ball around on offense with no one in double-figures heading into the break. They also managed to keep Pacers star Oladipo in check as well:

The Celtics started the 2nd half down yet another starter as their starting point guard, Kyrie Irving, did not come out of the locker room with the rest of the team. We would later find out it was due to knee soreness and he would not return.

The Pacers took full advantage and eliminated the Celtics' lead as they ripped off a 20-10 run to start the 3rd quarter and take their first lead since early in the game. Oladipo led the charge for the Pacers, scoring 11 points in the 3rd alone. The Celtics managed to
tread water to finish the quarter and found themselves trailing by 4 heading into the 4th (74-70).

After he got hot in the 3rd, the Celtics decided they were going to do their best to take the ball out of the hands of the Pacers All-Star:

While Oladipo still prevailed against the added defensive attention with some huge shots late, the Celtics still managed to scrape their way back into the game behind some big three-point shooting from Smart and Terry Rozier. A pair of made free-throws from Jayson Tatum with 36.0 seconds left in the game had the score knotted at 95 behind a fiery TD Garden crowd.

The Pacers went to Myles Turner on the ensuing possession and he backed his way to the rim for an easy post-up on Marcus Morris with 21.0 seconds to go. The Celtics got a good look for Rozier going to the bucket out of a timeout but he couldn't convert. Oladipo knocked down a pair of free-throws to seemingly ice the game but after a quick bucket from the C's Oladipo hit Marcus Morris in the face with an errant elbow, giving the Celtics another chance with 1.5 seconds to go. Rozier got a look, but his very contested 18-footer came up short, and the Pacers would head out of Boston with a win.

The Celtics offense lost its motor after halftime when Irving didn't return. Missing three of their starters they just couldn't quite find their rhythm offensively in the 2nd half. Had it not been for some big desperation threes late this game wouldn't have been quite so close.

Photo Credit - USA Today

Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401

Mark Allison 3/11/2018 10:04:00 PM Edit
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