The Boston Celtics got exactly what they needed to put the Indiana Pacers away on Saturday night.
Led by back-to-back dagger-esque three-pointers from Kyrie Irving, the Celtics seemed poised for their fifth straight victory. But on the back of a three dropped by the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo with 3.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, it was the Pacers that left the building with the dub by way of a 102-101 final.
After the loss, it was the 6-foot-3 Irving, who finished the night with 18 points in 27 minutes, that took the blame for the defeat, putting it on a missed lay-up on the offensive end, and a misread of Oladipo’s shot at the other end.
“Great play call by Coach Stevens and I just smoked that layup,” Irving said. “That was fully my responsibility to get open and to finish that shot. I rushed it,” he said. “I got my left hand on the backboard and instead of finishing the play, I just put too much whatever on it and it just shorted.
“I should have put us up four with that layup.”
Irving later faulted his lack of aggressiveness — attributing some of that to his early foul trouble — at the defensive end for the ‘easiness’ and lack of pressure on the shot Oladipo dropped in a win that featured 18 lead changes by the night’s end.
But after the game, Irving’s teammates were quick to absolve their leader of blame.
Marcus Morris, who led all C’s shooters with 23 points, simply credited Oladipo for making a good shot, “It happens.”
The 23 points from Morris were a single-game high on the 2018-19 season for the versatile bench piece, and simply continued what’s been a downright sizzling start to the year.
Marcus Morris' 7th game of 15+ points ties him with Lou Williams for the most by a reserve in the NBA this season— Celtics Stats (@celtics_stats) November 4, 2018
Morris has scored 15+ points in each of his last five games
For all of Oladipo’s late-game heroics, it’s worth mentioning that the Celtics did end this game with a chance to win it. But Gordon Hayward’s inbound pass out of the timeout intended for Jayson Tatum came up entirely too short, and was intercepted by the Pacers. The play served as a fitting end for a sluggish hometown return for Hayward, who dropped just 2-of-10 attempts (and went 0-for-5 from behind the arc) in a four-point, 25-minute effort.
The Celtics continue their road trip with a Monday night meeting with the Denver Nuggets.