Indiana Pacers

Celtics' pattern of playing catch-up can't last

Celtics' pattern of playing catch-up can't last

BOSTON – So many times, too many times, we have seen the Celtics on the doorstep of defeat only to rally for an improbable win.

While it has been seen as one of Boston’s strengths this season, we’re starting to now see the downside of all those hard-fought wins on the heels of deep, early deficits.

You have games such as the 97-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, a game in which the Celtics trailed by as many as 26 and rallied to take the lead briefly in the fourth quarter before eventually failing to seal the comeback with a victory.

Kyrie Irving has shown unwavering faith in his teammates and their ability to handle adversity.

Still, he knew as well as anyone that, based on how the Celtics played most of the game, a victory should not have been forthcoming for him and his teammates.

“We had no reason being in that game,” Irving said after the game. “We fought back, we battled back, but they...they came out and just really hit us in the mouth in the first half.”

And the Celtics were much better in all facets in the second half, but the strong play didn’t come soon enough – something that has to be of great concern for Boston going forward.

It’s easy to point to the schedule as a factor with the game being the second of a back-to-back, or the injuries in the backcourt finally catching up to them and impacting their depth.

But the problem with that narrative is that even when they were at full strength, the Celtics dug themselves huge holes that forced them to either fold that night or find a way to flourish.

They typically choose the latter.

But the Celtics know they can’t keep living on the edge like this and achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

“It’s hard, going on those crazy runs that we did, to maintain that,” said Jaylen Brown.

But it is a goal, one that the Celtics feel is within their control to bring to fruition more consistently.

“I think it starts with our desire to really, really execute,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

Here are five takeaways the loss: 

REBOUNDING
We’ve seen all season how telling Boston’s success or struggles are tied to how well or woeful they do on the boards. Indiana played some serious bully-ball against Boston, controlling the boards to the tune of a decisive 53-38 margin.

FAST-BREAK POINTS
Indiana’s transition game was a big problem, one that the Celtics never adequately solved all game. By the time the final horn sounded, Boston was on the short-end of a 14-7 margin in fast-break points.

OLADIPO-TURNER CONNECTION
In the fourth quarter, Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner were extremely difficult for the Celtics to contain particularly when the two were in pick-and-roll with each other. When the Celtics dropped back, Oladipo hit pull-up jumpers. When Boston blitzed Oladipo, Turner hit jumpers. Boston tried to switch, but that left Turner with a major size advantage at the rim which, to his credit, he took advantage of. They combined to score 14 of Indiana’s 21 fourth-quarter points.   “They did a great job of playing against every, everything you can do against it, and credit them for that,” said Stevens.

CELTICS DEFENSE
While holding the Pacers to less than 100 points was a positive for Boston’s defense, it masks what was a sub-par performance defensively. Players are going to make shots. No matter how good you play defensively, this is going to happen. But what players can control is the ability to contest those shots, something Boston didn’t do a particularly well against Indiana. The Pacers took 83 shots from the field, 48 of which were contested by Celtics players. That’s 57.8 percent of Indiana’s shot attempts were contested. To put that in perspective, the Pacers contested 59 of Boston’s 89 shot attempts, or 66.3 percent.

MORRIS STREAK ENDS
Marcus Morris has been on a roll offensively for the Celtics, giving them a much-needed lift offensively with his scoring off the bench. He came into the game having scored in double figures in 11 consecutive games, the longest such streak in his career. It’s a thing of the past now after he tallied just six points against Indiana on 3-for-12 shooting from the field.

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Celtics not 'crisp' enough offensively in loss to Pacers

Celtics not 'crisp' enough offensively in loss to Pacers

BOSTON – There were plenty of issues affecting the Boston Celtics on Friday that played a role in their 97-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers. 

But there was one that for head coach Brad Stevens, stood out from the rest. 

“I would just say that, you know, I think that our biggest issue as a team is we – we aren’t crisp,” Stevens said. “We don’t crisply do things on offense. We ... are probably more of a short-cut taking team than we need to be, to be the best version of ourselves.”

It is stinging but truthful assessment of where the Celtics (40-17) are right now. 

There are certain things that teams near the top of the standings consistently do, a certain brand of consistent toughness being among the chief character traits of such teams. 

We have seen that quality in the Celtics this season, but not nearly as consistent as Stevens wants and frankly, expects from his team. 

During his post-game press conference, Stevens would later elaborate on what he meant when he said the Celtics are a “short-cut taking team.”

“We just have to – we have to get better cutting, we have to get better screening, we have to get to our spots quicker, we have to not take for granted not every single cut,” Stevens said. “We have to get the ball where it needs to be.  We’re just not as good.  And to me, that’s on me. And I’ve got to do a better job of holding us accountable to doing that. And so, you know, I will do that.”

Boston had its moments when everything seemed to click. 

And it is in those moments where the huge deficits they run up early in games, become part of the past in addition to feeding into the narrative of them always finding ways to rally for a win. 

“We fought really hard to get back into the game but … it’s hard, going on those crazy runs that we did, to maintain that,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “And if we would’ve maintained it in the first half, we probably would’ve been in better position towards the end of the game.”

While it’s unlikely to result in a major change to his starting lineup or his rotation choices, don’t be surprised if you see certain players like Daniel Theis begin to log more minutes.

The kind of changes that Stevens hinted at, are the kind that tend to play themselves out in practice which is something the Celtics don’t do much of for a variety of reasons with chief among them being to avoid additional injuries. 

MORE CELTICS - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pacers

Marcus Smart is out past the All-Star break after suffering a right-hand laceration that required 20 stitches to close when he punched a picture frame. 

Shane Larkin has had knee soreness and he too not return to the Celtics lineup until after the break. 

Limited practice time or not, Stevens seems absolutely determined to bring about change sooner rather than later on the aforementioned areas of concern. 

“We’ll have enough practice time to do it well,” Stevens said. “Then it will be, you know, if we decide that it’s the most important things.”

Following the game, Stevens was quick to credit the Pacers for how they played and for the most part kept him and the Celtics off their game. 

That being said, Stevens sounds like a man convinced that more than anything else the Celtics must play with greater effort. 

“But you know, in the first half, I mean, maybe it’s their speed,” Stevens said. “Maybe it’s the force they were playing with, but for (whatever) reason we were behind on everything. And I think it starts with our desire to really, really execute.”

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Oladipo too much for tired C's to handle

Oladipo too much for tired C's to handle

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have made a point of going out of their way to not allow fatigue to be used as an excuse in losses. 

But the way they seemingly sputtered at both ends of the floor down the stretch against Indiana, it was pretty evident that the Celtics had a lot less in the tank late in the game than they’re accustomed to in part because of Thursday night’s overtime win at Washington. 

And the end result was a 97-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday, a game in which Boston trailed by as many as 26 points and actually took a slim one-point lead in the fourth before Indiana regained control and from there, the win. 

“Well, I thought we started the game really going through the motions, and I thought they started the game really playing with great force and purpose,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And I just thought we – we did a better job of that in the third quarter. There wasn’t anything tactically to change, because there was nothing tactically to talk about at halftime. I thought that their force, their purpose, their aggressiveness, their speed was an issue.”

Celtics guard Kyrie Irving acknowledged the team’s lack of energy being a factor down the stretch. 

“It just took a lot to even get back until that point,” said Irving who led the Celtics with 21 points. “They were just a lot fresher down the stretch, and, you know, making plays, and Victor Oladipo getting downhill and making some tough shots and some pull-ups as well.

Irving added, “But we had no chance of being there, like, we had no reason being in that game anyway. We fought back, we battled back, but they … came out and just really hit us in the mouth in the first half.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 97-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers which snapped Boston’s five-game winning streak over the Pacers. 

 

STARS

Victor Oladipo: This was one of those rare nights when the Celtics played and the best guard on the floor wasn’t Kyrie Irving. It was Victor Oladipo who led the way with a game-high 35 points with eight coming in the decisive fourth quarter.

 

STUDS

Myles Turner: His ability to stretch the floor as well as impact the game around the rim created major problems for Boston most of the game. Turner finished with a near double-double of 19 points and seven rebounds along with two blocked shots.

Jaylen Brown: The Celtics’ comeback didn’t gain serious momentum until the third quarter which is when Jaylen Brown took over. He would finish with a solid 16 points, 12 of which came in the third quarter which is when Boston outscored the Pacers 34-17.

Thaddeus Young: For as long as Young has been in the NBA, his talents have a way of flying under the radar. He was one of the key performers for the Pacers on Friday, tallying a double-double of 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, along with a game-high 14 rebounds. 

 

DUDS

Boston Rebounding: Indiana’s rebounding success more than anything else, kept the Celtics from generating enough scoring opportunities to compensate for what was an off night shooting the ball. Indiana won the battle on the boards by a decisive 53-38 margin. 

Terry Rozier: The only shot Rozier hit was a buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter to bring Boston within four points. He would tally just 10 points fueled mainly by free throws, as part of a 1-for-11 shooting night. 

Marcus Morris: The streak is over. Morris came into Friday’s game having scored in double figures 11 consecutive games. But against the Pacers, he had just six points on 3-for-12 shooting. 

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