Indiana (7-3): 102-Boston (6-3): 101
Marcus Morris: 23 PTS 6 REB 1 STL/BLK
Kyrie Irving: 18 PTS 6 REB 3 AST
Al Horford: 14 PTS 6 REB 1 STL/BLK
Victor Oladipo : 24 PTS 12 REB 3 AST 3 STL
Domantas Sabonis: 12 PTS 9 REB 5 AST
Tyreke Evans: 17 PTS 3 AST 1 STL/BLK
One thing is for sure after last night. The Pacers are going to be a problem for the Celtics all year-long as they usually are. Pesky, gritty, tough are all some words that can describe this team who also plays with a chip on their shoulder. Leading the charge in that aspect is All-NBA guard Victor Oladipo, who was given up on by multiple teams on his path back to the state where he played his college ball. He is not afraid of the moment and relishes the opportunity to hit a big shot or make a big play down the stretch.
To start off, the Pacers jumped out to a 7-0 lead right out of the gate as the Celtics started out 0-9 from the field and 0-6 from three in that stretch. This team has shown the willingness to live and die by the three and sometimes they’ll be falling and sometimes they won’t. That’s just the nature of the 3-ball no matter how great of looks you get. From here the Celtics responded with their own 12-0 run highlighted by a pretty pass from Kyrie Irving to Jaylen Brown on the fast-break for a layup, and the Celtic’s first 3 of the night by Jayson Tatum. At this point the Celtics looked aggressive and this fast pace even seemed to catch the Pacers off guard a bit as the Celtics closed the quarter holding Indiana to 6-20 from the floor. The ball movement was great as guys continued to drive and kick and look for the best possible shot. The quarter closed at 28-18 and the Celtics had a nice cushion to work with.
Terry Rozier hit a three off a screen at the top of the key to stretch the Celtic lead to 13 (31-18). This was the most important phase of the game for the Pacers as the Celtics looked as if they would start to pull away. Insert Tyreke Evans, a grizzled veteran who’s known as instant offense. This was on display Saturday as he came in and immediately made an impact tallying 7 points in the frame and giving Indiana some life. Indiana really made an effort to exploit Kyrie on switches as they coaxed him into 3 fouls early which forced Brad Stevens’ hand to sit him for most of the quarter. Hayward got into some foul trouble of his own as he also had 3 and was delegated to the bench. Although they were in foul trouble, the Celtics then pushed through to a 45-38 lead. The scoring drought hit the Celtics hard as Indiana went on a 7-0 run in the last 4 minutes to close the half tied up at 45.
To start the 3rd the teams went back and forth but a glaring thing was the Celtics poor defense. It seemed as though Indiana kept getting wide open looks as the Celtics regularly were getting lost on switches and showed some poor communication. Shooters like Oladipo, Bogdanovic, and solid mid-range scorers like Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis can kill you if left as open as they were. Turner had a couple of blocks at the rim on Al Horford which led to some easy baskets on the other end. It was now evident that the Pacers had slowed the game down to their level and were reaping the benefits. As much as the Celtics can run half-court offense they’re at their best running and forcing turnovers. Credit to Indiana as they dictated the pace and it played to their advantage. After a timeout with 2 minutes left down 67-62 the Celtics went on an 8-0 run and ended the frame tied up at 72. Once again, to close the quarter, Evans produced in isolation situations and gave Indiana another lift off the bench culminated by a stare down three over Marcus Smart to end the quarter. This quarter really highlighted another great night for Marcus Morris as he continues to knock down jump-shots and provide automatic offense.
As the 4th quarter rolled around Evans hit another two shots off of isolation. From there, the facilitation of Smart was on display (9 assists in the game) as he found Aron Baynes and Tatum for a couple of wide open threes. As the game went on the play of Sabonis came into the forefront as he was a nightmare in pick and roll situations and gave the Celtics a ton of trouble on the glass. His ability to execute a short roll and get into his sweet spot (about 10 feet out) was on display all night as he had an efficient 5-8 day from the field. He also was effective reading the defense and passing out of it as they got a few great looks out of the action. From then on Oladipo and Irving inserted themselves into the spotlight and dueled down the stretch. Oladipo led all fourth quarter scoring with 10 as Irving was right behind him with 9. With 1:10 on the clock Irving hit back to back threes, one of which was a ridiculous fadeaway from the right wing over two defenders, to push the Celtic’s lead to 101-97. Oladipo then hit two free throws and the Celtics saw themselves up 2 with 29 seconds remaining.
They got Irving a look as he drove left but it just didn’t have enough to get in. Oladipo got the rebound and instead of calling a timeout he raced to the right-wing, pulled up, and buried a cold-blooded three to put Indiana up 102-101 with 3 seconds left as the crowd erupted. The Celtics ran some action to try to free up Tatum under the rim but (guess who?) Oladipo sniffed it out and got the steal to seal a hard-fought win for the Pacers.
- Jaylen Brown looks as if he’s getting his confidence back and is starting to figure his role out in the offense. Aggressive drives and hellish defending were a couple of his strong suits in this one
- The lulls continue as it seems like every lead they get is just going to be given up in a flash
- Terry Rozier seems to be pressing a bit. Once again he forced some shots and sometimes it looks as if he’s trying to do too much on offense
- Marcus Smart had a quiet scoring night but produced. He facilitated the offense, made Oladipos life tough, and even took a couple of charges.
- Indiana is for real, they play incredibly hard, and the development of Oladipo, Sabonis, Turner, etc. has been on display as they look even better than last year when they almost uprooted The King in Round 1. When this team gets firing on all cylinders and are playing at their pace, look out.
Player of the Game: Tyreke Evans
Evans was perfect tonight for the Pacers. 17 points on 6-12 from the field and 3-6 from 3 in just 21 minutes of play. He played his role to excellence as he gave the second unit automatic scoring and kept the Pacers in the game multiple times throughout while Oladipo struggled before the 4th. His isolation play was on display as a lot of the Celtics defenders didn’t know what to do with his herky-jerky moves and frenetic play style.
The Celtics now head to Denver to take on the Nuggets (7-1) at 9:00 pm Monday 11/5