INDIANAPOLIS – Basketball can be a funny game sometimes. The Indiana Pacers (17-14) were not laughing by the end of Monday night.
Victor Oladipo turned in another Herculean effort, as Indy erased a 19-point deficit at the hands of the Boston Celtics (26-7), but ultimately lost by a point in truly soul-crushing fashion. The Pacers led 111-110 with four seconds remaining, but an errant pass from Bojan Bogdanovic led to a Terry Rozier steal and slam that gave the Celtics an improbable 112-111 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Boston was in control of most of Monday’s game, thanks in part to a ridiculous shooting start. The Celtics were unconscious, connecting on their first ten shots of the night. By the time the first quarter ended, the visitors owned a 38-21 advantage and looked well on their way to another win.
The second period was relatively even, as the Celts went into the break with a 15-point edge over the Blue and Gold.
Before mounting their comeback, it seemed as if whenever Indiana got close to Boston that the Celtics would answer. That trend continued through the third and into the fourth, when Oladipo and the Pacers finally broke through.
Down seven points with 4:28 to play, it was go time for the home team. Lance Stephenson and Domantas Sabonis nailed shots to pull Indy within three and then, on a fast break, Oladipo made good on an and-one to even the score at 100.
Now with just 1:52 remaining, each side traded baskets before Oladipo sent the Fieldhouse into a frenzy. Following a Kyrie Irving missed three, the ball ended up with Oladipo and the former IU star drilled a three-pointer to give the Pacers their first lead with 53 seconds on the clock. After a quick turnover on Boston’s end, Oladipo came down and made an impressive layup to shoot Indy ahead 107-102 with just 31 ticks left.
The Celtics would refuse to go away, though.
Irving hit a three with 27 seconds to go, with Stephenson knocking down a pair of free throws to keep Indy’s cushion at 109-105. Marcus Smart then made a floater to cut Indiana’s lead to two, but Oladipo responded with a couple of free throws to make it 111-107 with 19 seconds left. One missed shot from the Celts probably would have done it for the Pacers, but it was not meant to be.
Irving drove down the court and knocked down another triple, trimming Indy’s lead down to a single point with ten seconds remaining. What happened next was mind-boggling.
Following a timeout, Cory Joseph received the inbounds pass and flipped the ball to Bogdanovic after getting trapped. Bogdanovic then panicked a bit with the defensive pressure and lofted an ill-advised pass towards Oladipo at midcourt. Oladipo attempted to out-jump Rozier for the ball, but Rozier ended up with it and took it to the hoop for the game-winning bucket.
Darren Collison then heaved up a prayer at the buzzer for the Pacers and the shot nearly went in, just long off of the rim.
With the stunning turn of events, the Celtics became the NBA’s first team this year to win after trailing by five or more points with 30 seconds left.
Oladipo was fantastic yet again for Indy. He scored 38 points, 30 of which came in the second half, in addition to five rebounds. Irving countered for Boston, scoring 30 and dishing out four assists.
Looking to bounce back from a tough loss, Indiana will be back in action on Wednesday. The Blue and Gold will face the Atlanta Hawks for the first time this season, with tip from Phillips Arena slated for 7:30 p.m.