By MyFM's Jake Archer - The Celtics couldn't get a last-second shot from Terry Rozier to fall and they took the 99-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday in Boston. However, the bigger concern was the fact that they lost Kyrie Irving at halftime to his left knee that has been bothering him lately. Without Jaylen Brown and possibly Irving, we'll see Boston try to tread water in the standings over the next week or so.
I mean, it's not really a bad time to get these guys some rest, but it still stinks. The C's are now three and a half games back of red-hot Toronto and seven games up on third-place Indiana in the East. They've clinched a playoff berth and have 15 games left in the regular season, which has about a month remaining. They likely won't jump Toronto, but they need to stay in the second seed if possible because you certainly don't want to see a Philadelphia or a Washington in the first round.
Anyway, the Celtics did outplay a good Pacers team in the first half to lead by 10 at the break. Irving had seven points, four boards, one assist and one steal but his knee was acting up on him again. You could tell it was bothering him again towards the end of the half and he and head coach Brad Stevens decided the best thing to do was shut it down for the rest of the game and hope some rest over the next few days helps it to improve. The biggest thing the C's need to do is keep Kyrie healthy and get him right for the playoffs. They can't endure him being any less than full-go and he's optimistic that he will be and we shouldn't worry. I still am though.
As soon as Kyrie left the game, the Pacers (wearing their Hickory High uniforms) took over. They scored 11 straight to open the second half and take the lead. Boston would answer back with two buckets to snatch the advantage back but Indiana rattled off another seven in a row. They outscored Boston 34-20 in the third quarter to take the lead into the fourth. The loss of Irving had taken the wind out of Boston's sails.
With about two and a half minutes left in the game, were up by 17 points and in cruise control. Boston showed some fight as they clawed back and tied it up at 95 with 37 seconds remaining. The Pacers scored four straight points to send fans to the exits, but the Celtics weren't quite dead. Jayson Tatum cut the lead to two with a lay-in and then Marcus Morris drew an offensive foul on Victor Oladipo before the Pacers could get the inbounds pass in. It was Celtics ball with 1.5 seconds left, down two.
Boston got the ball in to point guard Terry Rozier for the final shot, a long two that bounced off the rim and allowed Indiana to escape with the win. It was almost the second time this season that they had allowed a crazy comeback by the Celtics to be capped off by a Terry Rozier bucket, but this time they were a bit luckier. This knotted the season series between the teams at two wins apiece.
All things considered, this was an impressive performance for the Celtics to come back against a really good team and almost steal a victory. They were without Irving, but they were also missing Brown who is still out because of a concussion and Al Horford who was sick. Marcus Smart stepped up and led the way with 20 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Tatum, Morris and Rozier all were in double figures. Tatum became the first Celtics rookie with 30 games of 15 or more points since Paul Pierce did it 31 times. The Pacers got 27 from Oladipo to lead all scorers and also had Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and Bojan Bogdanovic in double figures. I'm fairly sure Sabonis killed Daniel Theis on a poster-worthy slam in this game as well.
Morris and Smart got into a tussle with Cory Joseph after the buzzer sounded, but no one really knew what that was about. Boston falls to 46-21 and will host Washington on Wednesday night.