GAME RECAP: Celtics 104, Pacers 96
Jaylen Brown scores 23 as the Celtics get the win over the Pacers, 104-96.
Jaylen Brown scores 23 as the Celtics get the win over the Pacers, 104-96.
The Pacers play their first playoff game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in-front a packed crowd but struggle to close it out in the 4th and lose 96-104 to the Boston Celtics.
April 19, 2019 - Pacers players Darren Collison, Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, Cory Joseph, and Myles Turner discussed Indiana's 104-96 loss to the Boston Celtics playoff game 3 Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
April 19, 2019 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan discusses the teams tough Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Friday night.
April 19, 2019 - Pacers guard Tyreke Evans discusses the teams struggles against Boston through three games following their Game 3 loss at home.
April 19, 2019 - Cory Joseph frees up Wesley Matthews with a screen, leading to a big three pointer from the wing.
April 19, 2019 - Domantas Sabonis battles inside and comes away with two points.
April 19, 2019 - Myles Turner finds space on the pick-and-pop and hits the jumper through contact.
April 19, 2019: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
April 19, 2019 - Thaddeus Young gets out in transition and throws down the one-handed dunk.
April 19, 2019 - Thaddeus Young creates the turnover and finds Tyreke Evans who finishes at the hoop.
April 19, 2019 - The Pacers regroup after a rejected layup leading to a big shot from the corner for Myles Turner.
April 19, 2019 - Wesley Matthews gets it done on both ends of the court, getting the steal and the basket.
April 19, 2019 - Bojan Bogdanovic beats his defender one-on-one and gets to the rim for bucket.
April 19, 2019 - Celtics players Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown talk about their winning performance after Game 3 in Indiana.
April 19, 2019 - Celtics head coach Brad Stevens discusses Boston's 104-96 win over the Pacers in Game 3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Pacers' Season Down to Prideful Stand
Strategies can be questioned, and they were in the Pacers' locker room, and the dispersal of playing time can be debated, as it always is. But the central theme of the Pacers' loss to Boston on Friday, and the bottom line of the playoff series that now stands on the brink of extinction, is simple.
Raw talent and athleticism. Oh, and poise as well.
The Pacers' 104-96 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was similar to the first two games of the series in that they were competitive with the Celtics long enough to give them hope, but were done in by a one-quarter collapse. Now they are faced with the gargantuan task of doing something no team in NBA history has ever done: overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series.
"The silver lining is that we've been in every single game," Darren Collison said. "All it takes is one win. Definitely ain't going to be no quit in us. I know it sounds foolish outside looking in, being down 3-0, but in this locker room there's definitely not going to be no quit."
PLAYOFF CENTRAL: Track the Pacers' Postseason Run »
What's needed in the locker room — or on the court, actually — is execution and shot-making. The Pacers lacked both in their 12-point third period, which turned their two-point halftime advantage into a seven-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter. It was reminiscent of the third period in Game 1 when they scored eight points and the fourth period in Game 2 when they scored 12. It's also a drought the Pacers can't afford against superior opposition.
As Slick Leonard said over the radio broadcast toward the end of the game, Boston has more horses than the Pacers. He knows from experience. He won three ABA titles and reached the finals two other times while coaching the Pacers when they had stallions. He had a losing record in his final five seasons when they had ordinary talent.
The Pacers player most resembling a winning horse never made it to Friday's game. Victor Oladipo's anticipated arrival, which might have injected some of his much-heralded energy and positivity into their predicament, never came off because his charter flight was unable to take off from Miami due to weather issues. Seems appropriate, in retrospect.
The Pacers put on quite a show for the capacity audience for a half. They trailed by as many as 15 points in the first quarter as Boston's clinic in halfcourt offense produced 41 points, fueled by 8-of-10 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
They came storming back in the second, outscoring Boston 33-18 behind the unpredictable contributions of Tyreke Evans. A 35 percent 3-point shooter during the regular season, Evans hit a foretelling triple with 8.3 seconds left in the first period and then added two more without a miss in the second quarter, when he scored 12 points.
It started to unravel quickly in the second half. Myles Turner hit a 3-pointer to open the third quarter, but what followed was a succinct summary of the Pacers' offensive issues in this series:
An off-balance driving layup by Darren Collison; a missed 13-footer by Bojan Bogdanovic off the offensive rebound; Bogdanovic's missed 3-pointer; Wesley Matthews' missed 3-pointer; Thaddeus Young's pass that sailed over Bogdanovic's head and out of bounds; Turner's missed step-back 3-pointer with ample time on the shot clock; Collison's missed 20-footer; Turner's missed 3-pointer early in the shot clock after he fumbled a pass.
A timeout couldn't break the spiral. Young missed a shot from too far under the basket after play resumed and Turner missed a shot in the lane. By the time Bogdanovic finally scored on what actually was a forced, off-balance drive left of the basket, momentum had shifted. The Pacers led one more time, on Turner's three-point play, but they collapsed under the burden of impatience and inaccuracy.
Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
"We weren't patient," coach Nate McMillan said. "We started taking some quick, contested shots, bailing them out."
"I felt like we were settling," Domantas Sabonis agreed. "We could have kept moving the ball. Take our time. There's a 24-second shot clock. We have to take the best shot, not the quickest."
Without being too patient, though. That happened, too. Sabonis managed to score under the basket just ahead of the shot clock later in the period, bringing the Pacers within a point. Terry Rozier then hit three free throws after being fouled by Collison on a 3-point attempt and the Pacers followed with a shot-clock violation.
Evans rattled in a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, bringing the Pacers within four points, but Young threw the ball over Cory Joseph's head in transition and Joseph missed a well-defended layup a half-second ahead of the shot-clock buzzer after passing up a 3-point shot.
"Those extra ball movement plays, those are the ones that kill us," Young said. "We get ourselves against the shot clock and then we start trying to go one on one."
Young also questioned the Pacers' first-quarter defensive strategy, which called for aggressive hedges on Boston's screens to bring an extra defender to Kyrie Irving and force him to give up the ball. It didn't work out, as Irving accumulated four assists in the period and his teammates caught fire — particularly Jaylen Brown, who averaged four points over the first two games but scored 11 in the first quarter while hitting all three 3-point attempts, and finished with a game-high 23.
"We changed our coverages a little bit and that put us in a bad spot," Young said. "We had to go back to the old coverages and that got us back into the game. Those type of things happen when you try to overthink situations and try to make too many adjustments. We kind of overdid it with the adjustments in the first quarter. Once we got it back to what we were doing in the first two games, that got us back into the game."
Then again, what coaching staff isn't going to make adjustments after a team falls behind 2-0 in a series? And can strategies be blamed for the Pacers hitting 28 percent of their second-half field goals after they hit 55 percent in the first half?
It's talent. And composure at crunch time.
"They were much more poised than us," Collison said.
The Celtics reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season without Irving and Gordon Hayward. Now they have their two All-Stars and all the other key figures from last season's team other than the injured Marcus Smart. It took time for all their talent to be corralled and organized, and Hayward needed time to fully recover from his injury. But now they're out of the gate and running.
"We had to figure it out," said Irving, who was held to 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting, but had 10 assists. "We're settling into who we want to be. An overall great team."
It's unfortunate for the Pacers to have collided with this opponent. If everything had come together more quickly for the Celtics, they would be a higher seed in the East and playing someone else. Or, if the Pacers had not lost Oladipo for 46 games, they might be a higher seed and playing a lesser team, or at least have homecourt advantage in this series. But here they are, two teams brought together by the whims of fate, and for now at least headed in opposite directions.
The Pacers don't need to be told of the challenge that awaits them: winning four straight games against an opponent that's defeated them six-of-seven times this season. How do they respond?
Turner cut off a question about it, not needing to hear the scenario described to him.
"It's a pride thing," he said. "Getting swept is like a punch in the gut."
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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.
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