The Pacers opened a pivotal five-game homestand with a big victory, knocking off the Boston Celtics (39-28) on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 103-98. The win was the fourth in their last five games for the Pacers (36-31), who continue to inch closer to a playoff berth.
It was fitting that the Pacers wore their Hickory uniforms on Tuesday, as this game had an old-school feel. Both teams put together excellent defensive performances, making their opponents work for each and every shot.
The game was tightly contested throughout, with 12 ties and 15 lead changes over the first three and a half quarters. Boston led 77-76 with eight minutes to play, but the Blue & Gold scored the next six points to surge back in front, capped with a memorable sequence where Monta Ellis drove the lane and somehow wrapped a pass around the back of Celtics forward Amir Johnson to Jordan Hill, who finished with a thunderous one-handed dunk.
From there, the Pacers locked down Boston defensively and slowly put the game out of reach. Paul George buried a 3-pointer that pushed Indiana's lead to 10 with 2:13 to play, then he and Hill took turns dunking in the final two minutes, exclamation points on a big-time win over a Boston team that entered the night in third place in the Eastern Conference.
"I thought we just guarded," George said about the Pacers' closing effort. "We played great defense and that turned into some easy offense for us."
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The Pacers got off to a slow start out of the gates. George picked up two quick fouls and Indiana amassed seven turnovers over the first 8:37, falling into an early seven-point hole.
But the Blue & Gold righted the ship from there. They reeled off an 11-0 run over the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters to surge in front and pushed their lead as high as 10 points.
They led by four at the half and withstood Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas dropping 16 points in the third quarter to take a 71-70 lead into the final period.
The Pacers defense stifled the Celtics all night, limiting Boston to a .383 overall field goal percentage and a .250 mark from 3-point range.
George, who scored just seven points on 3-of-15 shooting in a 29-point loss in Atlanta on Sunday, bounced back in a big way against Boston. The three-time All-Star led all scorers with 25 points and went 9-for-16 from the field while also tallying seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals.
Hill provided a major boost off the bench, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter and finishing the night with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
"I was doing pretty good defensively and on the offensive end," Hill said about his late-game play. "(Head coach Frank Vogel) allowed me to stay in and keep doing it."
Monta Ellis chipped in 16 points, seven boards, and six assists for Indiana. Ian Mahinmi added 13 points and six rebounds, while George Hill contributed 10 points and five boards.
Thomas led Boston with 18 points, six rebounds, and eight assists. Jonas Jerebko added 17 points off the bench on 7-of-12 shooting. Jared Sullinger recorded a double-double, posting 15 points and 11 rebounds.
After beating Boston, the Pacers will now prepare to take on the team directly ahead of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings. Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors visit the Fieldhouse on Thursday, March 17 at 7:00 PM ET.
Inside the Numbers
George scored 17 of his 25 points after halftime, while 13 of Ellis' 16 points came in the second half.
The Pacers committed just one turnover in the fourth quarter, a far cry from their loss in Boston on Jan. 13, when they had four costly turnovers in the final minutes that cost them a chance at a big road win.
Lavoy Allen had some big hustle plays for Indiana and finished the night with four points, seven rebounds, and three blocks. Like he has many times this season, Allen had the best plus/minus of any Pacers player against the Celtics at +19.
The Pacers held their opponent under 40 percent shooting for the 15th time this season and improved to 13-2 when their opponent's field goal percentage is .399 or lower.
Indiana is now 27-5 on the year when holding their opponent under 100 points.
You Can Quote Me On That
"He was the recipient of a lot of good Monta Ellis decisions. He's a great finisher and had a strong performance. I was about to sub for he and Lavoy (Allen), but Jordan made a play at the offensive end and Lavoy made a couple of defensive stops at the defensive end. They both made winning plays down the stretch." -Vogel on Jordan Hill
"We are right there and ready for a postseason run. I know I am watching the standings. We have a chance to move up." -George
"I was more focused and more comfortable in the second half. Tonight was a game of two halves for me. In the first half, I did not do a good job of getting to the basket and getting my shots. Thankfully in the second half I did a better job, made good adjustments." -Ellis
"Jordan Hill loves playing against the Celtics. He's had great games against us every time." -Celtics head coach Brad Stevens
"We got a lot of shots, we got a lot of opportunities but our shots just weren't falling. They were able to get the ball in some comfortable areas for their shots. It was just one of those games." -Celtics guard Marcus Smart
Stat of the Game
With Tuesday's victory, the Pacers won the regular season series with the Celtics, 3-1. Indiana is now three games back of Boston in the loss column and holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Celtics if they can catch them by the season's end.
- The Pacers were without backup point guard Ty Lawson for the third straight game due to a sprained left foot. Reserve forward C.J. Miles also missed the game with an upper respiratory infection.
- Celtics starting forward Jae Crowder missed his first game of the season with a high ankle sprain.
- With Tuesday's win, Indiana is now 20-11 on the season at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers need just one more home win to clinch a winning record at home for the 27th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the NBA.
The Pacers welcome the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night at 7:00 PM. Find Tickets »
Home Court Gift Shop Game Night Special
Hickory Hat - $12. Game Night Specials can be purchased in the Home Court Gift Shop or any of our souvenir stands located on all levels of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The special is also available online at PacersGear.com until midnight.