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Celtics get out-shot by the Pacers, lose 128-107

Boston’s perimeter defense was a bit shaky, giving Indiana a ton of confidence.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics just didn’t have it tonight on the tail end of a road back-to-back. Indiana looked like a young team with a ton to prove, and several players stepped up to shoot the Celtics out of the game en route to a 128-107 loss. Jaylen Brown led the Celtics overall with 23 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists. For the game, the Indiana Pacers shot 52.2% from the field and made 17 3-pointers on 51.5% shooting from behind the line. Add in 85% from the free-throw line, and that makes for a tough team to beat on a given night.

Jayson Tatum (24 points, 5 rebounds, 2-11 shooting from behind the 3-point line) got into foul trouble early, throwing things off for him personally as well as the rotation that was missing Al Horford to a rest night after he put in 37 minutes yesterday against the Detroit Pistons. This wasn’t the biggest deal in the world in the first quarter, but the floodgates opened in the second quarter, when the Pacers poured in 39 points over the course of the frame. Everyone from Oshae Brissett (27 points) to Buddy Hield (19 points) to Malcolm Brogdon (20-6-5) to Tyrese Haliburton (20 points, 9 assists) to Chris Duarte (11 points) took turns splashing 3-pointers in.

The third quarter didn’t start that much better. Part of the reason why Indiana got so comfortable in the second was a stretch of really weak closeouts from Boston defensively. The perimeter defense has been so good since mid-January, but over the course of this game, Indiana was able to get a lot of things going just by virtue of having some space while Boston scrambled defensively.

Boston went down by as much as 17 points before the team started to fight back. With the team down 10 points, Goga Bitadze earned an offensive foul against Jaylen Brown, to which Brown took exception. Brown was one of the most fired-up Celtics to start, so that helped keep the spark alive as Boston continued to try to chip away.

Another issue that plagued the Celtics was that they were mostly taking what the defense was feeding them – a more-than-steady stream of 3-pointers. A lot of 3-pointers. With all of those shots behind the line, the Celtics weren’t particularly great at knocking them down. Payton Pritchard (14 points and 6 assists), one of the better 3-point shooters on the team, continued his hot streak after yesterday’s game against Pistons, hitting both of his first two 3-pointers.

In the fourth quarter, turnovers did not help Boston’s cause of trying to chip away. The team looked like it was running out of legs after a dominant stretch. There wasn’t really one major cause leading to this collapse, but a few factors didn’t particularly help:

  • Tatum’s shooting woes
  • Marcus Smart (13-3-7) couldn’t make many shots either
  • Poorly timed turnovers (the team only had 7 as a total)
  • The Pacers couldn’t miss. Six players in double figures scoring

The Celtics ran out of time after a bad defensive possession by Grant Williams followed immediately by a turnover under the basket led to Indiana going up 18 with a little over three minutes left. That was all she wrote.

The Celtics fail to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings, but thankfully, the Raptors below them continue to mess up, while all of the competition above them have plenty of games left against each other in the top six in the conference.

Boston falls to 36-27 and will take on the 29-31 Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. EST on TNT.