Sometimes, when you put the pedal to the metal, all you get is a cough, sputter and clunk.
Overwhelmed by the schedule, the Pacers simply ran out of gas Saturday, their defense able but their offense empty as they had a four-game win streak snapped with an 86-72 loss to the Boston Celtics before 16,892 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Indiana shot just 35 percent and its point total matched the season-low, but at 34-22 remained in third place in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Boston improved to 31-24 overall, 16-7 since the All-Star break.
BY THE NUMBERS
Danny Granger scored 20 to lead the Pacers but shot 6-of-15, 2-of-6 from the 3-point line. David West scored 16 on 8-of-10 shooting, while Darren Collison scored 13. Paul George (0-of-7) and George Hill (0-of-6) both came up empty from the field. The reserves combined for just 12 points, their second-lowest total of the season, and combined to shoot 4 of 21.
Paul Pierce scored 24, Ray Allen 19 and Kevin Garnett 15 for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo had 12 assists and Greg Stiemsma added 10 points off the bench. Boston shot 42 percent and had 27 assists on 32 field goals.
"Yes it was four games in five nights but we knew coming into the season the lockout would have an impact on games. You can’t overreact or underreact in any situation. Every time we made a run it was a Ray Allen three or a Paul Pierce bucket.” - Pacers Coach Frank Vogel
“They played very good defense and are one of the top defensive teams in the league. They made us play their game. When we made runs at them they were able to answer and get the game back under control." - Granger
“I have been off some and I’ve got to get my mind and body ready for the rest of the season. The season end is coming up close and I want to be ready. I came out on empty tonight and just couldn’t get it going. The day off tomorrow will really help for mind and body.” - George
“They controlled the game from the get-go. They are a veteran team and they know how to make you play at their pace." - West
"Here in Indiana they have played us pretty well. They have beaten us pretty badly. We wanted to come out and establish the pace from the jump defensively, and the offense is going to come." - Rondo
STAT OF THE GAME
This concluded an unprecedented stretch of 12 games in 17 days for the Pacers, including four sets of back-to-backs and one set of back-to-back-to-backs. They went 8-4 as Vogel was masterful in managing the minutes. No player recorded as many as 38 minutes in a game -- and in fact, none has reached that number since Granger played 42 on March 10 at Miami.
p> KEY MOMENTS
Finding the range for a brief spell, the Pacers got a spark from Leandro Barbosa and Granger late in the third quarter, as both players hit 3-pointers in an 11-2 run that cut Boston's lead to 57-51. Boston didn't make a field goal in the final 5:17 of the period but took a 59-51 lead into the fourth quarter.
That was as close as the Pacers would get the rest of the way as Garnett, Pierce and Allen carried the Celtics down the stretch.
Given their formidable shooting woes, the Pacers were fortunate to be down just 43-33 at halftime. Up 15-13 late in the first quarter, the Pacers went dry, hitting just 2-of-16 shots and committing five turnovers as Boston put together a 23-4 run to take a 36-19 lead.
The Pacers missed their first 10 shots of the second quarter and 16 of 17 but made eight of 10 free throws to keep things from getting out of hand. Indiana was 3-of-19 in the quarter, while Boston wasn't much better at 6-of-20, but the Celtics did have 16 assists on 17 first-half buckets -- nine from Rondo. Indiana's second unit combined to make just one of 11 shots in the half.
Boston extended its streak to 12 consecutive games holding opponents to less than 100 points. … Rondo had his 16th straight game with double-digit assists. … Indiana's 33-points in the first half matched the lowest of the season. … Rondo picked up a flagrant foul for smacking Granger in the back of the head as the Pacers forward was on his way to the basket in transition late in the second quarter. … Allen, who has started all but five games in his NBA career, came off the bench for the second game in a row for Boston as Avery Bradley remained in the lineup, a rotation Boston Coach Doc Rivers said he plans to use for the foreseeable future.
The three-game home stand concludes Monday against Toronto, the first meeting with the Raptors since the trade for Barbosa on March 21. The Pacers will be trying for their first series sweep in the Raptors' only appearance of the season in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.