Let me be honest: This game was billed as a potential playoff preview but Indiana is a team I’d rather avoid. The Pacers are a very good team, probably the only real challenger to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. A Celtics-Pacers series sounds like a more graceful version of last year’s grindy Celtics-76ers tilt, except this time the odds wouldn’t be in the Celtics favor. I’d rather face (what I see as) a beatable Knicks team or match up with the Miami Heat and give them everything we’ve got. That said, the Celtics showed tonight why no one in the East wants to run into the C’s in the playoffs.
“This team has shown tremendous heart, tremendous resiliency,” Paul Pierce said after the game. “Gutsy win. One of the best wins of year. Hopefully we can continue this momentum into the playoffs.”
Gutsy barely begins to describe it. Running on fumes on the second night of a back-to-back, the Celtics outscored the Pacers 25-13 in the 4th quarter including an 11-0 run to end the game. That run culminated in a Jeff Green layup on a gorgeous final play (Drawn up by Celtic’s assistant coach Armond Hill according to ESPN’s Chris Forsburg) with .5 seconds left and the Celtics were able to sneak away with the win. Let’s get to the bullet points:
- Kevin Garnett was fantastic tonight. The Pacers have the defenders to give the Celtics fits at every position, but with Hibbert hanging down low by the basket KG was open for his signature 22-footer and knocked down jumper after jumper, including his first three of the season. Garnett finished with 18 points on 7-10 shooting, 10 rebounds, and made the pass that resulted in Jeff Green’s game winning layup.
- Paul Pierce was frustrated tonight by 6’10” Paul George’s length (and the officiating) and scored 13 points on a rough 4-15 shooting. Pierce still came through when the Celtics needed him though, hitting a huge three during the Celtics run down the stretch and setting the screen that freed up Jeff Green for the game winning layup. Pierce also continued his strong work on the glass with eight boards, and added four assists as well.
- Jeff Green was also pestered by Paul George (seriously, the guys combination of length and mobility makes him a nightmare) and had 11 points on 5-14 shooting to go with seven rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. Green played well on defense however and had the aforementioned game winning layup (Layup, layup, layup. I can’t stop talking about this layup). Like Pierce, Green found other ways to contribute on a night when he struggled offensively.
- D.J. White played his first minutes as a member of the Celtics and after initially fumbling an outlet pass from Kevin Garnett (in a sequence I found hilarious) White settled down, finishing with two rebounds and two blocks in four minutes. White is known for his offensive game, so seeing him contribute on the other end of the floor was encouraging, even if we only got a fleeting glimpse of what he could offer the Celtics.
- Terrence “Point God” Williams didn’t get in the game, much to my chagrin.
- The Celtics were outscored 44-32 in the paint and 20-11 on the break. The Celtics only turned the ball over 13 times but unlike the 76ers the Pacers made those opportunities count, due in part to some horrific transition defense by the Celtics (there was a lot of standing and staring). Outside of those transition hiccups, the Celtics played smothering defense (holding the Pacers to 36% shooting) and their execution on both ends down the stretch helped them steal the win.
The Celtics have a day off tomorrow before taking on the Hawks at the Garden on Friday as they continue their grind towards a potential 4th seed.
Follow Jordan on Twitter: @HiggsOnHoops