Pacers out-execute Celtics down the stretch in key game for playoff positioning. No, you're not reading that wrong.
Posted by Matt Moore
There can be no insinuation of a lack of effort here. This wasn't about boredom or age, or coasting. The Celtics genuinely gave a tough effort against the Pacers Monday night, but Indiana walked away with the win for one simple reason: execution. The Celtics played with energy but also played out of rhythm wildly, throwing away needless turnovers and missing key shots in a 107-100 loss to the Pacers.
The result? The Celtics are now tied with the Miami Heat for the second overall seed in the East. They lost no ground to Chicago after the Bulls' loss to the Sixers, but Miami is now in surprisingly good position to close out the season and nab homecourt advantage in a possible 2-3 matchup. Oh, and the Lakers are now up on the Celtics by 2 games. Not that that's likely to come into play later.
It was an up and down performance for the Celtics. In the opening minutes, they poured it on the Pacers, dropping 33 points in the opening frame. But the Pacers pushed back hard and wound up with a halftime lead after nearly getting doubled up in the second quarter. Then in the third, you know where this is going, right? The Celtics put on the effort, play great defense, land huge threes, and retake the lead.
And then the fourth. Oh, goodness, the fourth.
Most surprising in the 15-point quarter were the turnovers, created by and finished off of by Darren Collison. Collison was worked over for three quarters of this game, then all of a sudden Rajon Rondo got worked over by Collison. Collison flipped in-between screens, nailed pull-up Js, hit floaters, and generally dissected the Celtics. But the biggest factor in this game was what should concern the Celtics, and that was Roy Hibbert. Hibbert landed 26 points. This on a Celtics team that prides itself on the ability to shut down the opposing team's big men. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is not going to help the questions about how much this team misses Kendrick Perkins.
The Celtics had their chances to win the game, but missed key shots from both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Just typing that felt weird.
Meanwhile, the Pacers got a big win as they continue to cling to the eighth spot in the East over the surging Bobcats by a game. The Pacers have little room for error, but you have to feel like this is the kind of momentum swing game that can help a team push to the finish line. They simply out-executed the reigning Eastern Conference champs. Everyone in the picture is playing for something. Monday night the Pacers and Celtics both played like it, but for once, it was the Celtics coming up short. The good news for Boston?
It looks increasingly unlikely they'll be seeing the Pacers again this year.