GAME RECAP: Celtics 99, Pacers 91

Kyrie Irving scores 37 points to propel a fourth quarter comeback as the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 99-91.

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GAME RECAP: Celtics 99, Pacers 91

Kyrie Irving scores 37 points to propel a fourth quarter comeback as the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 99-91.
Apr 17, 2019  |  00:00

Postgame: Thaddeus Young Game 2 Press Conference - April 17, 2019

April 17, 2019 - Thaddeus Young discusses the Pacers' tough Game 2 loss in Boston.
Apr 17, 2019  |  04:49

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - April 17, 2019

April 17, 2019 - After a tough loss to the Celtics in Game 2, Darren Collison, Wesley Matthews, Domantas Sabonis and Tyreke Evans shared their thoughts.
Apr 17, 2019  |  01:54

Postgame: McMillan Game 2 Press Conference - April 17, 2019

April 17, 2019 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan discusses the team's tough Game 2 loss.
Apr 17, 2019  |  05:50

Bogey Cashes Isolation Three Ball

April 17, 2019: Bojan Bogdanovic makes a big 3-pointer for the Pacers.
Apr 17, 2019  |  03:00

Postgame: Kyrie Irving Game 2 Press Conference - April 17, 2019

April 17, 2019 - Boston's Kyrie Irving discusses his team's hard fought Game 2 victory at home.
Apr 17, 2019  |  07:53

Postgame: Brad Stevens Game 2 Press Conference - April 17, 2019

April 17, 2019 - Celtics head coach Brad Stevens discuss Boston's hard fought Game 2 victory at home.
Apr 17, 2019  |  06:36

Postgame: Jayson Tatum Game 2 Press Conference - April 17, 2019

April 17, 2019 - Boston's Jayson Tatum discusses his team's hard fought Game 2 victory at home.
Apr 17, 2019  |  03:28

Sabonis Leaves It for Myles Underneath

April 17, 2019: Domantas Sabonis finds Myles Turner for the slam.
Apr 17, 2019  |  02:31

Collison Takes It In for Two

April 17, 2019: Darren Collison gets to the rim for the lay-in.
Apr 17, 2019  |  02:09

Thad Creates the Break and Flushes It

April 17, 2019: Thad Young gets the steal and finishes it on the other end.
Apr 17, 2019  |  01:41

Holiday Hits Tough Layup Attempt

April 17, 2019: Aaron Holiday makes a circus shot.
Apr 17, 2019  |  01:26

Tyreke Beats Shot Clock

April 17, 2019: Tyreke Evans hits a deep triple before the shot clock expires.
Apr 17, 2019  |  01:04

Bogey Hits the And-One on the Break

April 17, 2019: Bojan Bogdanovic gets the basket and the foul.
Apr 17, 2019  |  00:42

Matthews and Young Connect on the Alley-Oop

April 17, 2019 - Wesley Matthews finds Thad Young for the slam.
Apr 17, 2019  |  00:17

Pacers Find a Painful Path to Defeat

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

NBA playoff games often come down to great players making great plays at the most crucial times. The Celtics have a great player who's been there and done that and keeps doing it. The Pacers, meanwhile, are looking for someone who can hit a contested layup.

This was agonizing, this 99-91 Pacers loss at TD Garden in Boston that gave the Celtics a 2-0 lead in the first-round series. The Game 1 loss on Sunday was bad enough, what with that seven-point halftime lead and all, but at least the second-half collapse warded off neurosis in that one. But, man, this one… it was enough to give a team a collective migraine, not to mention its fan base.

Up 12 early in the fourth quarter, and still up two with 2:16 left? It was the kind of game begging to be closed down so the series could begin anew at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday. But a relentless series of calamities left the Pacers grasping for baskets and explanations.

"We've got to do a better job of finishing games and situations like that," coach Nate McMillan said. "Execution on both ends of the floor, getting stops defensively, offensively being clear about what you want to do and what you need to do in that situation. I have to do a better job, we all have to do a better job."

Quickly, too, because time is running short.

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The Pacers, who suffered through a 2-of-19 shooting performance in the third quarter of Game 1, hit just 4-of-17 shots in the fourth quarter of this one. All four successful flings were 3-pointers, which helped keep the Pacers in contention to the bitter end. The Pacers, in fact, hit 13 3-pointers, two more than Boston, overall, a major plus for a team that ranked second-to-last during the regular season in both made and attempted 3-pointers. But that's not enough when you're misfiring at the rim with stunning regularity.

Excluding uncontested layups in transition, the Pacers by unofficial count hit just 11 of their 25 shots at the rim — and that doesn't include the one in the fourth quarter in which Tyreke Evans drew a foul and missed both free throws. Most excruciating of all, they missed nine of their final 11 layups to leave a light on so Boston could find its way home.

The Pacers went just under eight minutes without scoring after Evans' 3-pointer provided their peak moment, an 82-70 lead. Bojan Bogdanovic later brought them back from two down to two up with consecutive 3-pointers, but they proceeded to go scoreless over the final 2:16.

It was a failure of execution more than shot-making. Their final field goal was followed by Bogdanovic's forced reverse layup from the left wing that required more agility than he or most humans possess, and then by Bogdanovic's layup attempt from the top in which he never freed himself and was easily blocked by Al Horford. Both came off isolation plays as the Pacers were trying to expand a two-point lead.

Jayson Tatum

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

After Jayson Tatum's 3-pointer gave Boston the lead, Wesley Matthews took a handoff from Thaddeus Young on the right wing and fired up a rushed 3-pointer that hit the backboard before the rim. Gordon Hayward then came back with an uncontested layup after the Celtics made a couple of passes to give Boston a 94-91 lead with 12.1 seconds left.

Needing a 3-pointer to tie the game, Matthews' inbound pass from the left sideline intended for Bogdanovic sailed out of bounds on the far side of the court. Bogdanovic had started to cut in that direction but stopped. Matthews later took the blame for that play, but it had the look of a team breakdown.

"We had some bad possessions (down the stretch)," McMillan said.

The Celtics showed how easily it can be done after a timeout, when Tatum inbounded to Hayward, who passed to Horford near the foul line, who dropped off a pass to a cutting Tatum for a dunk before any Pacers could get to him.

Bogdanovic threw up in hands in frustration, an appropriate coda for the Pacers' finish.

Kyrie Irving frustrated the Pacers with 37 points on 15-of-26 shooting. Two years removed from playing a major role in Cleveland's championship run, he was unstoppable when it mattered most. Matthews defended him as aggressively as possible, but Irving's the type who shoots better when the defense becomes better. An argument could be made to back off and dare him to shoot from the perimeter just to see what happens.

It seemed fate played a tortuous role in this outcome as well. Young had a postup shot over Jaylen Brown when the Pacers were trying to protect a four-point lead that hung on the rim and rolled off. Two possessions later, Collison's 15-footer bounced gently on the rim, daring itself to go in, but fell out. It was as if the basketball gods were saying, "Nah, not tonight."

In the bigger picture, the Pacers are still exceeding expectations from most people around the nation. TNT studio commentator Charles Barkley wrote them off with a broad verbal stroke before the game, declaring the Pacers' best chance to contend in the series had disappeared with their Game 1 loss.

"The Celtics are awakened now," he said. "The Pacers are going to get beat down tonight. I hate to say it. Reggie Miller is not walking through that door."

By halftime, after the Pacers had squandered an eight-point lead in the second quarter and trailed by two, Barkley still wasn't sold.

"Indiana is playing hard as they can; they're giving great energy and great effort," he said. "The Celtics are kind of looking at this as a scrimmage. Like, 'This team can't beat us.' Indiana should be up at the half. They're just not good enough without Victor Oladipo."

That might prove to be true, but the Pacers at least have proven they can compete with the Celtics. Homecourt advantage will help, and it's hardly like they're getting beat while playing their best. Their defense has been solid, holding the Celtics under 100 points in each game, but something will have to be done about an offense that continues to self-destruct.

"We can't have these mental lapses," Domantas Sabonis said. "It's all execution. For us, it feels we lost both games."

As opposed to the Celtics beating them.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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