Brad Stevens won his first game in Banker's Life Field House as a professional coach, as the Celtics hung tough in a defensive battle to beat the Pacers, 93-89.
Boston went to its bigs early, with Bass and Zeller going 4-for-4 to score the first 8 points for Boston. After a cold stretch of settling for jump shots, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass brought the C's back into the game with better shooting and passing, respectively (for the record, I never thought I'd see Bass successfully run a well-organized fast break). Stevens went to Pressey early, which yielded a quick assist and a made basket. While the Celtics were shooting poorly, the Pacers were even worse, and Boston was able to finish the first quarter up 20-18.
The second quarter was definitely better. Strong play from Crowder and continued success from Zeller, as well as some aggressive defense from the Celtics as a whole, set the tone in the second frame. The C's were able to stretch their lead as wide as 12 points halfway through the quarter. Stuckey played well for Indiana, and was able to spark a run late in the second and finished the first half down by 8, 45-37, stealing Boston's momentum headed into the locker room.
That momentum carried Indiana in the third quarter. After 4 minutes of the third had elapsed, the Pacers had drawn within 1. 6 points and two assists from George Hill led that charge, as the point guard showed how important he is to Indiana's success. However, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass led the retaliation for the Celtics, who finished the third up 67-60.
In the beginning of the final frame, Pressey, Smart, and Crowder pushed the Celtics even further ahead with solid play on both sides of the ball. It was particularly exciting to see Marcus come alive again in the 4th quarter, as he had had a frustrating night throughout the first 3. His shots started to fall, and his defense continued to be commendable. However, a sloppy stretch in the middle of the quarter brought the lead back to seven, causing Brad Stevens to call a timeout to refocus his team. It didn't work too well, as the Celtics allowed the lead to slip down to 5 with 2 minutes left.
As the game slowed down in the final possessions, the Celts came through again and again. Points by Bass, Bradley, Crowder, and Turner in the last minute and a half fended off the George Hill-led comeback attempt by the Pacers, as Boston hung on to win 93-89.
George Hill had a monster game for Indiana, as he finished with a line of 30 points on 18 shots, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Thankfully for Boston, his performance was slightly tainted, as he fell asleep on a couple of defensive possessions late in the fourth, allowing for a couple of easy Boston baskets.
This was a balanced team win for Boston, who are still without offensive dynamo Isaiah Thomas. Bradley, Bass, and Crowder stepped up to replace his offensive production, scoring 16 points each. Zeller was particularly effective playing in his home state tonight, as he led the Celtics with 18 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes. Boston continues to be successful on the second night of back to backs, which speaks volumes about their integrity and determination as a team, and about Brad Steven's motivational skills as a coach.
The Celtics have now won 9 of their last 12 games, and will look to extend their winning streak to 5 games against the 76ers on Monday.