By Conrad Brunner
Playing their fourth game in six nights and third in a row against a well-rested and highly motivated playoff team, the Pacers couldn't keep up with the Boston Celtics.
With Paul Pierce scoring 20 and reserve Jeff Green adding 19, the Celtics built a comfortable lead in the second quarter and kept the Pacers at arm's length the rest of the night in rolling to a 92-80 victory before 18,264 in TD Garden Wednesday.
After racking up 225 points and shooting 54 percent in consecutive victories over the Knicks, the Pacers shot just 38 percent and struggled to find quality shots all night long against Boston's elite defense.
The Pacers had their two-game win streak snapped and fell to 29-39 overall, 11-24 on the road and 12-12 under interim coach Frank Vogel. They've lost seven in a row in Boston. Charlotte (in Houston) and Milwaukee (to Orlando) both lost so Indiana maintained its hold on eighth place in the East. Boston improved to 48-18 overall and moved into a tie with Chicago for the top spot in the conference. The Celtics are 29-6 at home overall, 21-0 at home against Eastern Conference opponents.
- "I think they're motivated every night but in particular after a loss the other night, Chicago taking the top spot in the East, they knew they needed this game, they brought their A effort and it was too much for us." – Vogel
- "They play the passing lanes terrifically, they jump out on pick-and-rolls, they don't allow you to post up. They really disrupt your offensive flow. That's why they get deep in the playoffs every year." – Vogel
- "You're not going to get calls in a building like this. You're not going to get calls on the road in the playoffs. Our guys have to be tougher." – Vogel
- ""It is definitely a lesson, and it’s tough. It’s virtually impossible to come in here and win, when you’re not really going to the line a lot. It’s tough but you got to play through it.” – Danny Granger
- "I’m not going to lie, they’re really good defensively. They’re physical, they’re tough, but at the same time we missed some easy ones, but their defense is tough, it was on point tonight." – Tyler Hansbrough
STAT OF THE GAME
The Pacers had averaged 30.3 free throw attempts in their previous 13 games but shot just 13 in Boston, their fewest since going 11-of-11 at Philadephia on Jan. 11. The 17-point disparity in free throws made (26-9) was the Pacers' largest deficit of the season.
The Pacers started well, jumping out to a 17-9 lead, but Boston's bench turned things around behind Green. The midseason acquisition from Oklahoma City scored 13 in the second quarter, including 12 in a row for the Celtics as they had runs of 8-0 and 15-2 in the period to take a 44-31 lead.
With Paul George sparking a late run with a jumper and a 3-pointer, the Pacers cut the halftime deficit to a manageable 47-40. George and Danny Granger hit consecutive 3-pointers to close the gap to 54-50 early in the third but that's as close as the Pacers would get.
With three Indiana starters – Granger, Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough – sent to the bench with foul trouble, Boston closed the quarter with a 9-2 run to stretch the lead to 74-60. Indiana got no closer than the final martin in the fourth quarter.
BY THE NUMBERS
George had his best outing since moving into the starting lineup five games ago with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 from the arc. He had seven rebounds and three steals. Granger also scored 15 but shot 5-of-16. Josh McRoberts had 14 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench for his second double-double of the season. Hansbrough's streak of 20-point games came to an end as he struggled through a 4-of-14 shooting night but he did manage 10 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double.
The Pacers outrebounded the Celtics 49-36 and pulled 19 offensive rebounds but shot just 6-of-20 on their second-chance opportunities.
Pierce was 6-of-12 from the field, adding five assists to his 20 points in 28 minutes. Green shot 6-of-9 but scored just two in the second half. Ray Allen had 12, Nenad Krstic 11 with seven rebounds and Kevin Garnett 10 for the Celtics. Boston enjoyed a 39-24 advantage in bench scoring and outscored the Pacers 26-9 from the free-throw line.
- By making three 3-pointers, George equaled his total of the previous 14 games, in which he was 3-of-22.
- The Celtics have held their last four opponents to an average of 78.3 points per game.
- The Pacers wore their yellow road uniforms for the first time this season.
- Collison left the game briefly late in the first quarter to receive stitches to close a laceration above his left eye.
- Former Pacers forward Troy Murphy had six points and three rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench for the Celtics. Murphy has yet to hit a 3-pointer (0-of-7) with Boston and his 4-of-30 for the season.
- Granger picked up a technical foul for vigorously protesting a no-call on a drive to the basket with 2:51 left in the game.
The Pacers return home to face the team the Celtics are battling for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, on Friday at 7 p.m. (Fox Sports Indiana, WIBC FM 93). Tickets: Buy now | Collectible Friday.