The Celtics led the Eastern Conference’s best team by eight at the break, but a dreadful second half left the Celtics looking at a sixth straight loss and their 10th overall — this time 97-82 at the hand of the Pacers.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens grew up idolizing Reggie Miller and lamented the fact that Indiana has its best team of his lifetime before facing his former favorite team for the first time. And the Pacers lived up to that billing, holding the C’s to 12-of-30 shooting and forcing 16 Celtics turnovers in the second half.
Jordan Crawford led the C’s with 24 points. Jeff Green added 20 and Jared Sullinger 13.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Twisted: Kelly Olynyk got tied up with Indiana’s Luis Scola under the Pacers’ basket in the second quarter and immediately headed to the locker room with Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte and team Dr. Brian McKeon. The Celtics announced he would not return due to a right ankle sprain, calling the injury, “nothing serious.”
Give it way now: After staking themselves to a 25-22 lead and committing just two turnovers in the opening quarter, the Celtics committed four turnovers in their first eight possessions of the second quarter, allowing the Pacers to briefly regain the lead. Things only got worse in the third, when the C’s had more turnovers (11) than points (8) and the Pacers turned an eight-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Thin line: The Celtics entered Friday’s game with 76 fewer free throw attempts than their opponents. Tommy no likey. And they attempted just one free throw in the first 30 minutes against the Pacers — on a defensive three-second call. Tommy really no likey. Of course, the lack of a point guard capable of penetrating doesn’t help.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
So much Steez: Crawford fittingly capped a ridiculous first half by banking a 30-footer to beat the buzzer and hand the Celtics a 50-42 halftime lead. He also drained a shot clock-busting triple as part of an 8-for-8, 19-point effort in the opening 24 minutes. He added three assists in that span and was not credited with a turnover.
Defending their life: Without a defense that forced 16 turnovers, this loss could have been even worse. Led by Green (yes, that guy) and Sullinger, the C’s D respectively kept Pacers stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert in check for most of the night (until George dropped 14 fourth-quarter points). They just had no answer for Indiana’s depth, as Lance Stephenson recorded the first triple-double of his career while Scola and David West added 17 apiece. West has to be smiling now about choosing the Pacers over the Celtics in 2011.