GAME RECAP: Celtics 112, Pacers 111

Terry Rozier gets a steal and score late to lift the Celtics over the Pacers, 112-111. Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 30 points. Victor Oladipo had 38 points for Indiana in the loss.

Postgame 171218

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GAME RECAP: Celtics 112, Pacers 111

Terry Rozier gets a steal and score late to lift the Celtics over the Pacers, 112-111. Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 30 points. Victor Oladipo had 38 points for Indiana in the loss.
Dec 18, 2017  |  02:14

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - Dec. 18, 2017

December 18, 2017 - Pacers players Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Lance Stephenson discussed Indiana's 112-111 loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Dec 18, 2017  |  03:07

Postgame: McMillan Press Conference - Dec. 18, 2017

Dec. 18, 2017 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan speaks with the media following Indiana's 112-111 loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Dec 18, 2017  |  06:26

Oladipo Go-Ahead 3

December 18, 2017: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 18, 2017  |  08:55

Oladipo Ties the Game

December 18, 2017 - Victor Oladipo drives and converts the and-one to tie the game at 100.
Dec 18, 2017  |  07:14

Postgame: Celtics Locker Room - Dec. 18, 2017

December 18, 2017 - Celtics' coach Brad Stevens and Kyrie Irving talk about the wild finish after pulling out the narrow victory in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Dec 18, 2017  |  02:45

Long Range Lance

December 18, 2017: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 18, 2017  |  08:55

DC Starts the Break

December 18, 2017: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 18, 2017  |  07:38

Oladipo Takes the Bump

December 18, 2017: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 18, 2017  |  08:55

Bojan 3 With The Whistle

December 18, 2017: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 18, 2017  |  05:11

DC Steal and Finish

December 18, 2017: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 18, 2017  |  04:42

Bojan Scoops the And-One

December 18, 2017: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 18, 2017  |  04:24

Oladipo Reverse Layup

Victor Oladipo takes Al Horford baseline, then slides by him for a reveres layup.
Dec 18, 2017  |  00:15

"Tough, Tough Loss" for Stunned Pacers

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

When the Pacers wake up Tuesday morning, they'll wonder if it was just a bad dream. They'll shake the cobwebs from their brains, think hard for a few seconds and then realize...yeah, it really did happen.

With victory seemingly assured after another one of their patent-pending, death-defying, fan-friendly comebacks, they found a way to ruin what would have been the season's most satisfying victory, against the Eastern Conference's best team, Boston.

It was surreal the way it ended, Bojan Bogdnaovic's ill-fated lob pass hanging in the air for what seemed a minute or two, being intercepted by Terry Rozier with 4.3 seconds left and turned into a game-winning dunk that erased the Pacers' five-point lead with 31.3 seconds remaining. It left everyone at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a state of shock, left the Pacers with a third consecutive homecourt loss, and left the Celtics atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 26-7 record.

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"It's a tough loss, a tough, tough loss," said Victor Oladipo, who scored 30 of his 38 points in the second half to lead the comeback from a deficit that had reached 19 points early in the second period and was still in double figures late in the third.

"We've gotta have a better start. It was just a crazy game."

One of the craziest in franchise history, really, and one that could send the Pacers one of two directions. They're going to Atlanta for sure on Tuesday, in advance of Wednesday's game against the Hawks, but in what kind of emotional state will they arrive? Angry, and eager to made amends for a heartbreaking loss? Or in mourning, void of spirit?

The early returns were trending toward the positive. By the time they had showered and allowed themselves to absorb the stunning nature of their defeat, the last few Pacers to leave the locker room were managing smiles and lighthearted conversation with one another. And what could they say, really? Neither temper tantrums nor tears were going to bring back those agonizing final 4.3 seconds.

Nate McMillan's message afterward: "Stay together. You don't point fingers. This is hard to take, but you have to move on."

Still. The Pacers were on the cusp of the most heart-warming of all their victories this season, better than the opening-night 140-point onslaught against Brooklyn, the solid victory over San Antonio, the two wins over Cleveland, or that overtime escape from Denver, in which Oladipo scored 47 points.

And it was thrown away on one dumbfounding play. The Pacers were leading by a point with 9.3 seconds left, their five-point margin whittled to one by two Kyrie Irving 3-pointers and a running floater by Marcus Smart in transition. All they had to do was inbound the ball, draw a foul and hit a couple of free throws to take a three-point lead and force the Celtics to need a 3-pointer with just a few seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

Which was certainly possible given the fact the Celtics had hit 16-of-26 3-pointers to that point. But, still.

Bogdanovic, who had just been inserted into the game because of his free throw percentage (.867), inbounded to Cory Joseph. The Celtics didn't foul, so Joseph held the ball for a second and then threw it back to Bogdanovic. The Celtics still didn't foul, so Bogdanovic inexplicably lofted the ball high into the air toward Oladipo, a pass that immediately drew a collective "Oh, no!" from virtually everyone in attendance. Rozier picked it off and practically danced downcourt for the dunk.

Some fans in a state of shock might have missed the fact Darren Collison nearly hit a 57-foot shot at the final buzzer that would have won the game for the Pacers, but the ball banged off the back of the rim. Apparently, the quota for miracles had already been filled by then.

Bogdanovic did not face the media afterward, vacating the locker room by the time most of the reporters had arrived. His teammates stood in and up for him, careful not to say anything that remotely sounded like blame.

"Everybody makes mistakes," said Lance Stephenson, who, as usual, was a vital part of the rally with seven points, three rebounds, two assists, a steal and no turnovers in the fourth quarter. "We encourage our teammates, we don't bring nobody down, we just move on to the next...he knows what he did wrong, just like I know what I did wrong and we just try to move on from it.

"We can't judge him off this one mistake."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens had instructed his team to trap once after the final inbounds pass in hopes of a turnover, but then foul after the first pass. He was glad in hindsight they hadn't followed the game plan.

"When it went into Joseph after he held it for a second, fouling is the most logical outcome," Stevens said. "But, logical doesn't always work and I'm glad we didn't foul."

Celtics guard Shane Larkin could have fouled Bogdanovic, but resisted.

"He didn't look like he wanted to dribble, and I ran toward him as he was looking to pass," Larkin said. "I just got my hands up and used my jumping ability and forced a hang-time pass. Lucky for us, he didn't want any part of the ball and lofted it up there."

Bogdanovic's soft lob wasn't the only mistake by the Pacers in the final half-minute, and Irving must be given credit for his killer threes. His first one, with 27.7 seconds remaining, came over Domantas Sabonis' outstretched arm. McMillan said later he would have liked for Sabonis to crowd Irving more and force him into two-point territory, but his careful defense was understandable given that less than four seconds had ticked off the shot clock.

After Stephenson hit two foul shots to give the Pacers a four-point lead, the Celtics inbounded quickly and hit Smart, who escaped Stephenson for his running six-foot floater. Stephenson was quick to take responsibility for that one, and McMillan mentioned it as well.

"They ran right by us," McMillan said. "Keep the guys in front of you."

Then, after Oladipo hit two free throws to give the Pacers another four-point lead, Irving ran off a pick — an obviously moving pick from Al Horford, who was backpedaling — and hit another 3-pointer with 10.2 seconds left, setting up the finish.

The fateful finish, but also the familiar finish. It was the third consecutive home game in which the Pacers' comeback bid has failed to produce a victory, making for their longest homecourt losing streak of the season. If nothing else they should by now be cured of the notion they can dig any size hole they want and crawl out of it. They did it earlier in the season against Detroit (22 points), Chicago (16 points), and Denver (19 points), but they couldn't do it against Oklahoma City, Detroit, or the Celtics.

Boston took control of this one immediately, racing out to a 12-0 lead, hitting its first 10 shots, and going up by as many as 18 points in the first quarter.

"We have to figure a way to get off to better starts," McMillan said.

There were positives, beyond the comeback against an elite team. Oladipo played like an All-Star once again, scoring 30-plus points for the sixth time this season. Sabonis was strong off the bench with 18 points, his third straight game in double figures, making up in part for Myles Turner's two-point performance. And Stephenson once again was a role model for aggression and fearlessness during the rally.

The nightmarish final 4.3 seconds made it easy to forget all of that. Now the Pacers have to wake up from the nightmare.


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.

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