GAME RECAP: Celtics 117, Pacers 97

Jayson Tatum scores 22 points with seven rebounds, Gordon Hayward adds 21 as Boston takes Indiana, 117-97.

Postgame 190405

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GAME RECAP: Celtics 117, Pacers 97

Jayson Tatum scores 22 points with seven rebounds, Gordon Hayward adds 21 as Boston takes Indiana, 117-97.
Apr 5, 2019  |  00:00

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - April 5, 2019

April 5, 2019 - Pacers players Doug McDermott, Myles Turner, and Thaddeus Young discussed Indiana's 117-97 loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Apr 5, 2019  |  01:51

Postgame: McMillan Press Conference - April 5, 2019

April 5, 2019 - Nate McMillan speaks with the media following Indiana's 117-97 loss to the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Apr 5, 2019  |  03:21

Myles Swats Irving

April 05, 2019: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Apr 5, 2019  |  02:38

Joseph Takes Advantage Of The Mismatch

April 05, 2019: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Apr 5, 2019  |  02:38

Turner Hits From Top Of Key

April 05, 2019: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Apr 5, 2019  |  02:01

Bogey Cuts Hard To Basket

April 05, 2019: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Apr 5, 2019  |  01:50

Holiday Knocks Down Three

April 05, 2019: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Apr 5, 2019  |  01:54

Cory's Steal Transitions To Sabonis Dunk

April 05, 2019: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Apr 5, 2019  |  01:25

CoJo Creates Opportunity For Thad

April 05, 2019: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Apr 5, 2019  |  01:37

Pacers Fire Blanks in Showdown for Homecourt

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

When you're missing two players who are supposed to be your starting guards and you're less athletic than your opponent, your margin of error is narrow. Certainly too narrow to accommodate 14 missed layups and eight missed foul shots, not to mention a sluggish defense.

For the Pacers, homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs almost certainly crumbled amid the burden of those shortcomings in their 117-97 loss to Boston at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday. Now it becomes a matter of regathering the pieces of a fractured offense and defense and regaining confidence.

The defeat dropped the Pacers into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, a game back of the Celtics. For the Pacers to climb back into fourth they will need to beat Brooklyn at The Fieldhouse on Sunday and win in Atlanta on Wednesday and the Celtics would have to lose to Orlando in Boston on Sunday and at Washington on Tuesday.

Regardless of how the final two regular season games turn out, the Pacers and Celtics will almost assuredly meet again next Saturday or Sunday to open a first-round playoff series. And what happened at The Fieldhouse on Friday doesn't exactly provide optimism for the Pacers' hopes of avoiding a first-round exit for the fourth consecutive season.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Track the Pacers' Playoff Push »

Then again, maybe it was the perfect setup, an unintended head-fake of sorts. That would be the viewpoint from within silver linings, as expressed by radio analyst and former coach Bob "Slick" Leonard toward the end of an anticlimactic evening.

"They blew us out of here tonight," Leonard said midway through the fourth quarter, after Boston's lead had peaked at 25 points. "Maybe they'll think it's an easy trip in the playoffs and we'll sneak up on 'em."

Even then, it will take more defensive effort and offensive execution than what the Pacers managed on Friday when they allowed the Celtics 26 fastbreak points and failed to gum up their cutting edge halfcourt offense over the final three periods.

"It's crunch time now," Pacers' captain Thaddeus Young said. "When our backs are against the wall, we've got to figure out a way to get our backs off and start fighting back."

History gives a clear indication of the importance of homecourt advantage. While most of the Pacers' memorable playoff moments have come on the road (such as the close-out game of all three ABA championships, Reggie Miller's heroics in Madison Square Garden and Philadelphia, Byron Scott's game-winning 3-pointer in Orlando) a stubborn fact remains. The Pacers are 14-5 in the NBA playoff series in which they have homecourt advantage and 5-20 when they don't.

This particular collection, at least, takes pride in its ability to regroup after disappointments. Resiliency is one of the most oft-quoted words coming out of the locker room and there's literally a Reset button near the practice courts at St. Vincent Center. It will need to be pounded vigorously before Saturday's workout to erase the memory of this one, because the Pacers, to their credit, owned it.

"They were more physical, they were faster, they were stronger and they pretty much dominated the game," coach Nate McMillan said.

"We got our butts kicked," added Wesley Matthews, who returned from a two-game absence. "We'll see them again. Hopefully we'll be better prepared for them next time."

Bad as the outcome was, it can't be said the Pacers didn't come to play. With The Fieldhouse buzzing with playoff-level anticipation, they led 27-24 after the first quarter — thanks mostly to Domantas Sabonis' eight points in the final 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

The turning point, if there can be one in a 20-point game, came after TJ Leaf blocked Marcus Morris' midrange shot, grabbed the rebound, drove to the basket and missed a layup. And then missed a tip. And then missed another tip. It worked out nicely when Aaron Holiday grabbed the tipped-out rebound and hit a 3-pointer to give the Pacers a 36-35 lead, but it was an ominous moment.

The Pacers were missing far too many easy shots. And they weren't getting nearly enough stops, either. Gordon Hayward, who would finish with 23 points on 9-of-9 shooting to become the first Celtic since Kevin McHale in 1986 to have a perfect shooting night while scoring more than 20 points, answered Holiday's go-ahead basket with a go-ahead 20-footer of his own. Jayson Tatum then got to the basket for a layup that drew a foul from Young and completed a three-point play, and then beat Bojan Bogdanovic off the dribble for another layup to give Boston a six-point lead.

The Pacers were outscored 34-20 in the second quarter, which is what happens when you hit just 8-of-22 shots and commit five turnovers while forcing just one turnovers and allowing an opponent to hit 12-of-21 shots.

Thaddeus Young, Aron Baynes

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

"We didn't impose our will," Young said. "We kind of settled down a little bit and gave too much to them Instead of pushing up into the ball, we let Kyrie (Irving) drive the ball and go coast to coast a couple of times, and take it to a spot and just pull up on us.

"I'm not saying we weren't playing, but we have to make it a little harder for the other team to score."

Boston's lead was up to 11 by halftime. It still was 11 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, but Hayward scored eight points over the final five minutes to push it to 17. The Brownsburg native and former Butler star has had plenty of homecomings in his nine-year NBA career, but this had to be his best. Maybe the presence of Butler's cheerleaders, mascot and bulldog, Blue, all of whom were on hand as part of the Project 44 Awareness Night to honor former Butler center Andrew Smith, made him feel at home.

Regardless, it was his seventh consecutive game in double figures and his second straight with 20 or more, providing evidence he's fully recovered from the broken ankle he suffered in last season's opening game.

That's yet another weapon for the Celtics, who appear to be as talent-loaded as any team in the Eastern Conference but have struggled to find a consistent stride this season.

"They have more firepower than most teams, but they're still beatable," Young said. "They're just like us in a sense with their record. They can be beat. They do have a lot of firepower, but sometimes that's not the best thing."

Perhaps when part-time starter Jaylen Brown, who missed Friday's game with back spasms, returns the Celtics will have too many offensive weapons for their own good and struggle with chemistry. Perhaps they'll be softened by the ease of Friday's victory. Perhaps the impending return of starting point guard Darren Collison will upgrade the Pacers' backcourt. Perhaps the layups and tips will fall for the Pacers once the playoffs begin. And, perhaps the Pacers will draw motivation from the sting of this one-sided defeat in a game they considered the biggest of the season.

"We definitely have a sour taste in our mouth," said Doug McDermott, who continued his steady play with 11 points off the bench. "I think it's definitely going to fuel us and not defeat us."

It won't take long to find out.


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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