The Celtics  started the game with their worst offensive half in franchise history and never recovered. Despite lingering around for much of the game, Darren Collison‘s 3-pointer with a minute and a half to play finally put a nail in the coffin on a 87-74 Pacers victory that ended the C’s four-game winning streak and left them with plenty of questions to answer during a four-day layoff before they welcome the defending champion Mavericks to town on Wednesday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The first half: The 6-year-olds who played at halftime in the Garden had a better shooting night than the Celtics did in the first half. The C’s matched a franchise low, scoring 25 points on 9-of-34 shooting (26.5%) in the opening 24 minutes, heading to the locker room to a smattering of boos from the home crowd. Paul Pierce  was 1-of-9 from the floor at the break. As our own Mike Petraglia noted, the Celtics had only totaled 25 points in a half twice before in franchise history during the shot clock era. It’s a good thing Indiana only shot 13-of-39 (33.3%) for 33 points.
Cleaning the glass: The Pacers had more rebounds at halftime (30) than the C’s had points. David West, who got booed mercilessly almost every time he touched the ball, didn’t help matters, totaling double-digit boards and adding insult to injury after spurning Boston for Indiana during the free agency period. The Pacers out-rebounded the C’s, 47-36, including a 14-7 advantage on the offensive end.
Not benching much: The bench, including Brandon Bass  (5 points, 2-7 FG), got outscored by their Pacers counterparts 33-14. Marquis Daniels ‘ offensive woes continued, as evidenced by a wide-open missed layup on a scoreless night.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
JO’S MO: Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal  played 10 minutes in the opening quarter, only scoring two points (on a nice delayed jumper) but setting the tone defensively with three blocks and three rebounds. Even if the C’s couldn’t score, O’Neal helped make sure they stayed in the game on the defensive end. While O’Neal headed to the locker room during the second half for a padded vest, he returned in the fourth quarter.
Ray Allen’s return: There were few bright spots in the Celtics offense, but having Ray Allen back on the floor after missing a game with the flu was one of them. Allen started 4-for-4 from 3-point range, actually improving upon his 66.1 3P% entering the game and helping the C’s stay in the game after the Pacers opened a big lead in the third quarter. Allen finished 23 points on just 11 field goal attempts.
The Garden crowd: For not leaving. (That one’s courtesy of our own Ryan Hadfield.)