The Indiana Pacers are spiraling out of touch with the final playoff spot after a 100-87 loss to the Boston Celtics who are still ninth in the East but remain very much alive in the race for the postseason.
Despite an almost completely shut left eye, Kelly Olynyk produced a fantastic performance off the bench with 19 points, co-leading the Celtics along with Tyler Zeller in a crucial win that puts them a ninth in the East (34-41), 0.5 games behind the Brooklyn Nets, occupying the final spot to the postseason. The Pacers fall to 11 (32-43), now 2.5 games behind.
A solid first half and a very good finish from the Celtics in a slightly jumbled game from them took care of business, while the Pacers were once again left looking for someone to carry them on offense. Roy Hibbert had another poor performance in a game that’s crucial to the team, scoring 7 points and hitting just 3-of-9 from the field while getting killed on the boards.
Besides Zeller and Olynyk, there were the usual energy boosts from Jae Crowder, scoring 13 points in 24 minutes, Isaiah with 8 points off the bench, Marcus Smart with a bad offensive day but four steals and a triple double for Evan Turner, scoring 13 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 12 assists, helping hide the fact that he shot just 6-of-17 from the field.
George Hill scored 21 points to lead the Pacers, followed up by Rodney Stuckey with an impressive 16 points in just 20 minutes, but the Pacers kept chasing the Celtics all night long, and even when they were able to cut the big 18-point lead they never followed through and got close enough to make things actually shaky for the home team.
It’s very frustrating. Everything is on the line and we’re just blowing it away and giving it away. They beat us in transition too many times. Their style of play won out.
Turns out all the blows the Pacers took before the season began are affecting them now more than ever, and all the energy used in order to somehow keep this team on the way towards a playoff appearance has been left out of maybe their two biggest games of the final days of the season, losing to the Nets and Celtics back to back, leaving them with very little hope of finishing in the top 8.
The Celtics don’t have to tank because of all their draft picks. They’ll be fine either way. Creating some sort of continuity and tradition of success with players who have rarely been involved with consistent winning (not that winning 45.3% of their games is too successful) might be more important in the evolution of this team, which still needs some outside help to get the first playoff appearance in Brad Stevens’ era out of the way.