By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Playing in their first road game of the season, the Celtics fell late to the Indiana Pacers, 108-107. Despite trailing for most of the second half, Boston got themselves in position to win the game late, but couldn’t capitalize.
The Celtics came out of the gate strong, opening on a 12-2 run before the Pacers were forced to call an early timeout. Indiana bounced right back with a 10-2 run of their own, in turn forcing a Celtics timeout as the Boston lead was cut to three. Despite some turnover trouble, the C’s were able to find their footing and led 23-19 at the end of one.
Indiana fought back to grab the lead early in the second quarter when Jayson Tatum fouled Justin Holliday on a three point attempt. Tatum responded by heating up. He scored or assisted on 11 of the Celtics’ first 13 points of the quarter.
That put Boston up 38-35 when the Pacers called a time out with 6:30 to go until the half. Tatum’s run, plus eight points from rookie Payton Prtichard off the bench powered the C’s to a 55-49 halftime lead.
The Pacers opened the second half with a run of their own, scoring 12 consecutive points and drawing a Brad Stevens time out. Indiana’s lead would grow to as much as 11, and Boston entered the final frame trailing by 5.
Continuing to fight back, the Celtics finally tied the game up with 6:17 to go in the game. With the shot clock winding down, Jaylen Brown found Tristan Thompson in the paint, who hit a turnaround hook to knot the game at 96. They’d tie it up again at 103 with two and a half minutes left to play.
Down 106-105 with 15 seconds to go, Robert Williams stole the ball on an inbound pass, and got the ball to Marcus Smart for a go-ahead layup with just 11.8 seconds remaining. Just minutes before, Smart was in the locker room with trainers after landing on his right shoulder.
Rob Williams comes over for the steal on the inbound trap, and Smart finishes at the other end for the late lead. pic.twitter.com/urJtMINxwT— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) December 28, 2020
Back on the other end, Domantas Sabonis hit a layup to put the Pacers back up one with 7.7 seconds to play. He was fouled by Williams on the shot, but missed the free throw. It wouldn’t end up mattering, as Tatum missed a fadeaway three at the buzzer to end the game.
Tatum finished with a team high 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting, and went 3-of-9 from deep. He also picked up his first double-double of the season, grabbing 11 rebounds.
Jaylen Brown turned in a strong showing, putting up 18 points. Rookie Payton Pritchard scored in double figures for the first time in his career with his 13-point efford. Robert Williams (12) and Marcus Smart (11) also finished in double figures.
Malcolm Brogden was the biggest issue defensively for the Celtics, putting up 25 points. Doug McDermott, who was almost traded to Boston before the season in the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade, added 16 off the bench.
The Celtics fall to 1-2 with the loss. Boston and Indiana will run it back on Tuesday for the second of their two-game series. You can catch all the action on 98.5 The Sports Hub, starting with pregame coverage at 6:30 p.m.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com