When it comes to getting breaks, it seems the Boston Celtics have been getting the wrong ones this season especially when it comes to health.
That was not the case on Saturday night as the Indiana Pacers found themselves without all-star Paul George, which certainly gave Boston a much better chance at beating them.
And the Celtics made the most of the moment as they held on for a 105-99 win over the Pacers.
Boston (5-4) has now won two in a row while handing the Pacers (4-6) their first loss at home this season.
The Celtics are trying to get back that defensive swagger that made them a nightmare for teams last season.
Saturday’s performance was yet another step in the right direction.
It was only fitting that the Celtics put the game away with an Isaiah Thomas lay-up late in the game that came about after an Avery Bradley steal followed by a pass to Marcus Smart who then quickly got the ball in Thomas’ hands for the lay-up that made it a 101-94 game with a minute to play.
Boston has played short-handed all season, so Saturday’s game was nothing out of the ordinary.
But for the Pacers, a George-less game was something they had not experienced this season.
For the most part, Indiana made due without their best player as contributions came in from many players.
The same could be said for the Celtics who have played most of his still-young season without Al Horford (concussion).
And on Saturday, Boston’s top scorer Isaiah Thomas was having one of the worst shooting games of the season.
His first made basket didn’t come until the latter stages of the third quarter.
But with every possession counting, there was Thomas in the fourth, making one clutch hoop after another which allowed Boston to continue playing with a slim lead. He would finish with 23 points.
It wasn’t a surprise that the game came down to the final minutes, because for most of the first half it was very much an up in the air affair.
The game’s momentum began to swing in Boston’s favor near the end of the second quarter which ended with the Celtics riding a 13-0 run that put them ahead 48-45 at the half.
The third quarter was a back and forth tussle that ended with the Celtics still holding on to a 3-point lead going into the fourth.
Boston came in feeling good about themselves following a 115-87 beat-down of the New York Knicks Friday night.
But they got a boost moments before tip-off when the Pacers announced that three-time all-star Paul George was not going to pay due to an ankle injury.
Indiana’s Jeff Teague, a one-time all-star in his own right when he played with Atlanta, tried to pick up some of the scoring slack.
But the Celtics did a good job of not letting him get into any kind of good rhythm shooting the ball as he finished with 20 points on 4-for-15 shooting.
Indiana’s Myles Turner had a strong performance with 17 points and 8 rebounds with 4 steals and 3 blocks.
The Celtics weren’t playing their best basketball in the first half but to their credit, they hung around and finally caught their stride in the closing minutes with a 13-0 run.
Trailing 45-35, the Celtics drained three consecutive 3-pointers to make it a one-point game.
And from there, Amir Johnson took over.
He made a pair of free throws with 57.4 seconds to play that put Boston ahead 46-45.
And on the ensuing Pacers possession, Johnson came up with a blocked shot that gave Boston a chance to increase its slim lead which they did on a Johnson lay-up.
He finished with a near double-double, scoring 14 points to go with 9 rebounds.
Boston also got a strong game from their bench which featured James Young leading the way.
He had 12 points (one shy of tying his career high) with three rebounds and assist and two steals.
More than the points, the third-year guard made a slew of hustle plays which included diving on the floor, winning jump balls and keeping balls alive that either wound up in the hands of a Celtic player for a basket or resulted in a rebound and change of possession.
Tyler Zeller (7 points, 6 rebounds) and Terry Rozier (11 points, 6 rebounds, steal, assist, block) also played well off the Celtics bench.