The Boston Celtics certainly felt the absence of Jae Crowder in tonight's game against the Pacers, but they didn't do themselves any favors to overcome the loss of their valuable wing. For the game, Boston shot 38.3% from the field and 25% from deep, and was plagued by careless turnovers throughout the contest.
With Jae Crowder out with an ankle injury, Marcus Smart got the start at small forward. The Pacers tried to take advantage of the Smart - Paul George matchup at the start of the first, but were largely unsuccessful; PG-13 missed his first shot and Smart picked his pocket on a possession soon afterwards.
As per usual, Boston went to Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger for jumpshots early in the game, trying to get the two veterans going quickly. Unfortunately, neither of them shot very well, which started an unfortunate trend for Boston on offense. It was their defense that was allowing them to score, because they were almost exclusively settling for long jumpers in their half-court sets.
The one bright spot for the Celtics in the first was Jonas Jerebko. The Swede had 7 first-quarter points, on his way to a season-high 17 for the game. His slick shooting (maybe a by-product of his slick haircut?) helped Boston to keep the game tied at 20 at the end of the first stanza.
The second quarter was more of the same, but a bit worse - Boston went into the half down by 4, the byproduct of poor shooting, lack of aggression, and being careless with the ball.
Somewhat surprisingly, Isaiah Thomas was almost a no-show in the first half in terms of scoring. The lack of spacing (normally provided in part by Crowder and Kelly Olynyk) clogged up the lane, and Indiana's frontcourt helped to hold the 5'9" point guard to only 2 first-half points. To be fair, IT did notch 7 assists before the break, but his lack of scoring punch definitely hurt Boston.
In the second half, Paul George started to take over for Indiana. After 8 points in the first two quarters, George scored 17 in the second half, to go along with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. He worked hard on defense, but his offensive game was effortlessly smooth.
In response, Thomas finally got himself going. Seeing his team in need, Isaiah scored over and over again, pushing the ball in transition, and getting himself to the line. IT had 16 points in the third quarter alone, pulling Boston to within a single point of the Hoosiers-garbed Pacers by the start of the fourth.
Unfortunately, he was not able to continue that production in the final quarter. Thomas' only fourth-quarter points came on a three-pointer with seconds left in the game, and the Celtics still down 95-103. Even more unfortunately, none of his teammates were able to step up to take over the scoring duties. They fought to the finish, but were unable to stop the Pacers from pulling away to end the contest up 103-98.
- A very solid scoring performance from Jonas Jerebko tonight. He notched an efficient season-high in scoring. Unfortunately, he still looked a bit timid, and pump-faked instead of firing away on open looks on more than one occasion. Hopefully this performance helps his confidence, and we see more of this production down the line.
- Coty Clarke saw some meaningful minutes tonight, and made the most of them. The rookie forward made his first NBA shot, a corner 3-pointer, and grabbed an offensive rebound in three minutes of action.
- Terry Rozier also received a lot of burn. While he was none too impressive in the first half, he started to find his legs in the second, and was able to make more of a positive impression on the game.
- None of the trio of James Young, RJ Hunter, and Jordan Mickey saw the floor tonight. While I understand that Mickey may have been a bit overwhelmed by Indiana's large and strong front-line, it would have been interesting to see if the alleged shooting of Young or Hunter could have helped space the floor a bit more. It will be interesting to see how much, if any, time these young guns get through the rest of the season.
- Another strong game from Sullinger, who continues to make a case for strong offers in restricted agency. I'm certainly no GM, but I think the big guy has earned the benefit of a nice contract this summer. Here's hoping Sully sticks with the Celtics for several more years to come (maybe just don't take 4 threes, next game).