After falling to the L.A. Clippers two nights ago, the Pacers bounced back on Wednesday night in a huge way against the Eastern Conference's second-best team, the Boston Celtics.
Despite 44 points from Boston newcomer Kemba Walker, Indiana (16-9) emerged with the hard-earned 122-117 victory behind the Holiday brothers' impressive fourth quarter.
"You know, it's fun as a team, finally playing against some top teams," Domantas Sabonis said of what the team learned after these two tough games. "It's good to see where we are, you know? And getting one win out of these two is good for us."
After a 15-point performance in the first quarter from the Beantown's biggest offseason signee, Walker, the Celtics (17-6) emerged from the first quarter with a slim 32-30 lead over Indiana. However, the Pacers' defense responded in a big way early in the second quarter. Nate McMillan’s squad held Boston to just one field goal in a 4:13 span, and the offense used an 11-2 run to grab a 53-44 lead over the Celtics with 4:00 left to play in the first half. Indiana then held Boston off down the stretch to take a 61-57 lead into halftime.
After a 37-point third quarter — including 15 from Walker — it appeared as if Boston was going to run away with the game. But, the Holiday brothers had other plans.
Aaron and Justin Holiday combined for 20 of Indiana's 38 fourth-quarter points, and Malcolm Brogdon iced the game late at the free throw line, connecting on four consecutive free throws with under a minute to play.
"I think we were really really calm," Justin Holiday said of Indiana’s fourth quarter. "[We] took our time, hit the guys that were open, and everybody just made plays."
With Boston in possession, Walker collected the ball and threw up a desperation three in an attempt to tie the game. The man who had been on fire all night missed wide left, hitting nothing but air. The Pacers would then ice the game with two more free throws from Brogdon.
Brogdon led all Pacers scorers with 29 points and went a perfect 15-of-15 from the free-throw line while Aaron and Justin Holiday added 18 and 17 apiece, as Indiana emerged from the bout victorious. Domantas Sabonis notched his 20th double-double of the season by halftime. He finished the game with 15 points, 14 boards, and fell just two assists shy of a triple-double.
After starting just 3-of-14 from the field two nights ago, the Blue & Gold connected on five of their first seven shots of the game, including back-to-back threes from T.J. Warren and Brogdon to grab an early 15-12 lead at the 7:33 mark of the first quarter.
However, the Celtics regained the lead a few minutes later thanks to a quick 14-3 run, including nine from Walker. His finger-roll layup in the paint gave Boston a 30-21 lead with 3:21 left to play in the opening frame, and his 15th point of the quarter. But the Pacers began to combat the onslaught with their reserves.
Indiana outscored the Celtics 9-2 down the final stretch of the period, including four points from the always-energetic T.J. McConnell, to trim the deficit to just two points (32-30) as time expired in the quarter. McConnell’s tough right-handed running layup with 31.6 seconds remaining provided the final points of the first quarter.
Out of the break, Boston used four quick points, including a 3-pointer from the former Purdue Boilermaker Carsen Edwards, to open a 36-30 lead on the Pacers. On both his entrance into the game and his ensuing three, Edwards received a nice ovation from the Indiana crowd.
But his field goal would be the only Boston basket for the next 4:13 of the quarter.
Justin Holiday’s layup on a fast break at the 8:18 mark of the quarter soon pushed the Pacers back in front 37-36.
Boston later regained a 42-39 lead on Gordon Hayward’s fadeaway jumper with 6:05 remaining, but Sabonis responded on the other end with a tough three-point play to knot things up once more at 42 apiece.
The play appeared to spark the Pacers, as they sprinted out on an 11-2 run over a span of 1:38 to take a 53-44 lead and force Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to call a timeout with 4:00 left to play in the half. The run was highlighted by one of Myles Turner’s signature rainbow 3-pointers from the left wing that brought the crowd to its feet
Out of the timeout, the Blue & Gold manage to stretch their lead to 13, 57-44, with 2:33 left in the half. However, Walker almost single-handedly brought Boston back into the game.
The former UConn star scored six of the Celtics' last seven points, including a three-point play with 3.2 seconds left, to cut Indiana’s lead to just four as the first half ended.
The halftime break didn’t halt Walker’s momentum one bit, as he scored 10 of the Celtics first 18 points of the frame to grab a 75-72 Boston lead with 6:06 left to play in the quarter.
Later in the period, Walker would wow the crowd with a no-look pass that led to an easy Jaylen Brown bucket that extended the Celtics' lead to 82-76 with 3:56 left in the third.
Indiana appeared willing to fight back. The Blue & Gold scored the game’s next five points in the next 33 seconds to quickly pull within one.
But Walker then picked up right where he left off. The former Charlotte Hornet scored the game's next five points to extend Boston's lead to 87-82 with 2:01 left to play.
As he headed to the bench, Boston continued to find success in the third. The Celtics closed the quarter on a 7-2 run that gave Boston a 94-84 lead, and the momentum, heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Holiday brothers began lighting up the house.
The duo combined for eight points of an early 10-2 fourth-quarter Pacers run. Justin Holiday's emphatic one-handed slam trimmed the deficit to just two, 96-94, with 9:13 left in the game.
Over the next few minutes, they were able to respond to several Boston buckets. Despite their best effort, the Celtics couldn’t earn more than a four point lead.
Aaron Holiday's tough layup from the right lane with 5:27 left to play cut the Celtics lead to 102-100. A pair of Doug McDermott free throws then tied the ball game at 102.
With 1:59 left to play, Brogdon broke a 109-109 tie with a pair of free throws to give Indiana a slim two-point lead. After what seemed like a rare miss from Walker, Justin Holiday drilled a clutch 3-pointer from the right baseline to give Indiana a 114-109 lead with 1:25 remaining..
After a Celtics timeout, Indiana could not put the game away. Back-to-back Boston visits to the free-throw line trimmed Indiana’s lead to 114-113 with 48.6 seconds left to play. But with time winding down, the Pacers knew just the man who could put the game away.
And he did.
Just as he's done his entire career, Brogdon remained razor sharp from the charity stripe. His two free throws with 2.0 seconds left gave the Pacers their much needed first signature win of the season.
"Ever since high school, there are days when I get in the gym and try to make the best out of 100 [free throws]," Brogdon said. "If I don't get 95 or better, I try to shoot them again. I've been like that since college. I think free throws are the easiest shot in the game. So those are the ones you have to make."
Inside the Numbers
Coming into tonight, Indiana was averaging a league-low 18.8 free throw attempts per game. Tonight they connected on 30 of their 36 attempts. Both are season highs.
Indiana forced 15 turnovers, including seven in the fourth while committing just 10.
The Pacers' bench outscored the Celtics' bench, 47-19.
Six Pacers players scored in double figures — Malcolm Brogdon (29), Aaron Holiday (18), Justin Holiday (17), Sabonis (15), T.J. Warren (14), and Myles Turner (11).
You Can Quote Me On That
"We had good rhythm offensively, and defensively we started to get some stops. I wanted to stick with that group as long as we could. Our bench really won this game for us tonight. They did a good job in the first half and in the second half, they changed the tempo and it got us back in the game." – Coach Nate McMillan on why he stuck with the Holiday brothers down the stretch
"That's always a good feeling. That's what good teams do. That's what good coaches do. It was good the guys got hot and guys were doing well on both sides of the floor. We rode it out and you saw what happened with it." – Justin Holiday on Coach McMillan riding the bench and the hot hands, including him, late in the game
"One of our problems all season long has been closing out these games against these elite teams. Tonight, we were able to do that so that will definitely help our confidence down the stretch." – Malcolm Brogdon on closing this game and how it can affect their confidence
Stat of the Night
After scoring 39 points through three quarters, Indiana held Kemba Walker to just five points in the fourth quarter.
- Indiana's win snapped Boston's four-game winning streak.
- Indiana's second unit scored more points than the entire Celtics team in the fourth quarter (24-23).
- Indiana won their first regular-season game against the Celtics since Nov. 3, 2018.
The Pacers travel to Atlanta to take on Trae Young and the Hawks on Friday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 PM ET.
The Pacers return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to host Cody Zeller and the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 5:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »
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