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Shorthanded Celtics fall to Pacers 99-97 at home

The Celtics nearly came away with the unlikely win but the Pacers were able to avoid the late-game collapse.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics couldn’t overcome injuries to three starters Sunday night against Indiana as they fell 99-97. You can take a look at the full box score here.

The Celtics were down two with less than two seconds left until Marcus Morris drew an offensive foul from Victor Oladipo. The Celtics had a chance to send the game into overtime but weren’t able to complete the miracle ending.

“Starter Marcus” was in full effect in this one. From the opening tip Smart was flying around on defense, drawing multiple offensive fouls and knocking in 6-12 on threes. He finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Smart has been playing with the exact level of intensity that this Celtics team needed after limping into the All Star break. As long as he keeps that up the second unit should be a force to reckon with in the postseason.

Kyrie Irving played 15 minutes in the first half but stayed in the locker at the start of the second half. The Celtics announced that Irving was experiencing left knee soreness and he did not return in the second half. Smart also suffered what looked like a right thumb injury at the start of the third quarter. He did not miss any time though so that was a good sign for the ailing Celtics.

Jayson Tatum had a strong game on both ends of the floor, which started with a vicious block on a Thad Young dunk attempt. The Celtics’ prized rookie played significant time with the second unit since Smart and Morris were starting, and was able to hit shots off of screens and make plays for his teammates, including a nice dump off to Daniel Theis on the break.

Victor Oladipo had torched the Celtics in their last two meetings for 38 and 35 points respectively. Boston made it a point to limit his transition opportunities, but he still had a solid game with 27 points. Oladipo should be a major problem for teams in the playoffs, especially if his teammates contribute like they have been.

The Celtics held a 10 point halftime lead until the Pacers made a run at the beginning of the second half to take a lead. Boston seemed to have control of the game in the first half, but Indiana came out firing with a 34-20 third quarter to shift momentum.

With a battered roster against a rolling Pacers team, the Celtics continued to scrap and claw in front of their home fans to keep things close. Turnovers and fast break buckets were their best chance at getting the win.

However, the absence of three key contributors became too heavy a burden to overcome. The Pacers were able to sustain their momentum they established in the third quarter and never looked back. Boston made one last push to tie the game at 95-95, but Myles Turner was able to score on Morris from the post to put Indiana over the top.

The Celtics’ next game is against another eastern conference playoff foe in the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. The game is scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. EST at TD Garden.

Kyrie Irving on Injured Knee:

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