Celtics escape with a thrilling 112-111 win over the Indiana Pacers
In what was an absolute rollercoaster of a basketball game, the Celtics survived a late game push by the Indiana Pacers to capture a 112-111 victory. Boston saw their 19-point lead slowly evaporate, mostly at the hands of Victor Oladipo's 38 points, but Kyrie Irving (30 points) came up clutch and Terry Rozier made a game-changing steal in the final seconds to win the game.
The Celtics were clicking on all cylinders from the opening tip-off. Led by the backcourt, Boston got off to a blazing start from the field, hitting their first 10 shots to open up a rapid 23-8 lead. Kyrie (9pts, 3ast) and Jaylen Brown (10pts) were great in the quarter, combining for 8-12 shooting and understandably drawing some large cheers from the fans in the Fieldhouse when they finally missed a shot.
The C's shot 67% through the opening 12 minutes to carry them to a scorching 38 points in what was one of the best offensive quarters by any team this season:
Brad Stevens took Jayson Tatum and Al Horford out of the game early in order to stagger their minutes and play them with the second unit. This is what they did against the Grizzlies, and it paid off again Monday night in the second quarter. They didn't particularly have big scoring efforts, but their presence made a difference at both ends. Oh, and Tatum did this, too:
Indiana attacked the basket in the second to keep them in the game. Despite getting baptized by Tatum, Domantas Sabonis had 10 points and six boards off the bench. It was just the Celtis' half, though. Everything continued to fall for them - just ask Marcus Smart who went 4-4 from three in the half. He hasn't hit that many three-points in the last three games combined!
Indiana outscored Boston 20-16 in the paint and got to the free-throw line 15 more times, but Boston's lethal 56.3% three-point shooting guided them to a large halftime lead. Oladipo led the way for the Pacers with eight first-half points. Meanwhile, Kyrie's 14 points, along with Brown and Smart's 12, topped the first-half scoring:
HALFTIME:#Celtics keep a double-digit lead up 62-46
Boston and Indiana went hoop-for-hoop to open the third, with both star players, Irving and Oladipo, heating up. Later in the quarter, though, the Celtics fluid ball movement vanished. They started forcing passes and taking bad shots and as a result, their shooting cooled off and they coughed the ball over six times in a short period of time.
This helped the Pacers dig into their deficit, as they continued driving to the rim and drawing fouls. Oladipo had 16 points in the quarter, many of which came from the charity stripe. Speaking of which, the Pacers as a whole shot 31 free-throws by the end of the third, accounting for 24 of their 78 point total.
Horford continued to quietly inch closer to another one of his trademarked almost-triple-doubles, finishing the quarter with 11 points, eight boards, and seven dimes. Indiana's free-throw shooting and the Celtics slip-ups allowed the Pacers to go on a 10-1 run and outscore the C's 31-23 in the quarter:
The #Celtics in a good one, lead 85-78 after 3Q. The Cs are led by Kyrie Irving's 22 points and Al Horford (11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists). Victor Oladipo (24 points) starting to heat up for the #Pacers, who are also getting a nice game from Darren Collison (15 points). pic.twitter.com/SerPIw4Pta
Indiana refused to go down easy in the final frame of play. Bojan Bogdanovic, Lance Stephenson, Sabonis, and Oladipo led a slow but steady fourth-quarter surge that further chipped away at Boston's lead. It was suddenly a five-point game with under four minutes remaining, as the Pacers got a pair of put-back layups from Stephenson and Thad Young.
With two minutes remaining, almost all of Boston's fourth-quarter points were from role players who came off the bench. Daniel Theis, Shane Larkin, Semi Ojeleye, and Rozier combined for 12 of their first 15 points - which is all they had for the majority of the quarter.
A Sabonis mid-ranger and an Oladipo and-one layup tied up the game at 100 apiece. After Kyrie and Oladipo exchanged big buckets, the Pacers ball movement led to wide open Oladipo three at the top of the key that he knocked down. This gave the Pacers a three-point lead with 52 ticks remaining on the clock.
With the possession back to the Celtics and a chance to tie or make it a one-point game, they threw away the inbounds pass, and Oladipo took advantage. The cold-blooded guard came up clutch again, as he hit a tough up-and-under layup through Horford to push their lead to five. This capped off ten straight points that were scored by Oladipo.
Kyrie and the Celtics desperately tried to scratch their way back into the game. Uncle Drew knocked down a huge pair of three-pointers that were enough to give Boston a chance even with the Pacers hitting all of their free-throws down the stretch. This left the game at 111-110 Indiana with nine seconds left in the contest and the Pacers with possession, meaning that no matter what, Boston would have a chance to tie. However, they didn't even need to foul. Instead of instantly fouling, they forced a second pass, Rozier intercepted it (almost Malcom Butler-esque, right?), and took it to the rim for a thrilling final bucket:
The Celts went on an unlikely 10-4 run in the final 27 seconds to clinch the 112-111 victory.
It was a relentless win that felt very reminiscent of the crazy finish of the Patriots game yesterday. Call it luck, call it skill, call it whatever you want, but at the end of the day, the Celtics got the win. Sure, it wasn't pretty. Sure, it would be amazing to not blow a big lead for once. But heck, it was a win nonetheless.