A trio of observations from the Indiana Pacers’ 101-98 loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday.
Pacers struggle with Celtics’ pick-and-pop game
The Celtics entered Friday night’s game with one of the league’s 10-best offenses of the young season while playing at the third fastest pace. The return of Rajon Rondo from injury has helped ignite Boston. He’s surrounded by bigs that can shoot from the perimeter and their pick-and-roll action is difficult to defend, especially for a Pacers team with so many injuries.
Boston got off to a great start. They scored 21 points in the first 5:53 of the game ended the first quarter with 30 points. The Pacers were able to keep up, but it was enough of a hole dug that likely cost them when the game was still winnable in the final few seconds.
If you roll through the Celtics’ box score, you’ll see they didn’t have any standout scoring performances. Their leading scorer, Jared Sullinger, had 17, but 12 Celtics managed to get on the score sheet. Former Butler Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens has this team moving the ball well, too — 26 of their 39 makes were assisted on. A good portion of those came through pick-and-pop situations with Rondo (6 assists), Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk (12 points), and Jeff Green (15 points).
Hibbert, Pacers find success inside
Roy Hibbert bounced back from a rough game against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, leading the Pacers with 22 points and 11 rebounds (4 offensive). Hibbert’s size gave Boston’s undersized front line trouble on the block, as he was able to shoot over the likes of Sullinger and Olynyk for most of the night.
The Pacers finished with 56 points in the paint and 14 offensive rebounds. At times they were able to post up Chris Copeland, Damjan Rudez, and Solomon Hill on smaller guards, too. Their dominance inside led to less turnovers than previous outings (12) and allowed them to get back into the game when they were down 13 in the first half.
Indiana has been much more perimeter oriented to start this season compared to last year. Entering tonight, a third of their shots had come from the behind the arc. That changed a bit on Friday as they shot just 19 3-pointers, but the opponent’s personnel led to that more than anything. The problem? The Pacers were only able to connect on 26 percent of their 3-pointers against Boston.
The Pacers will turn around and play the Wizards on Saturday at home and will enter the game with a 1-5 record. The timetables on George Hill and David West’s returns from injury are still up in the air. West is set to miss all of next week after originally only being expected to miss the first three games of the season. Hill is likely to be out until at least December, according to multiple people close to the franchise.
So where does that leave the Pacers moving forward?
Some thought this team had enough to hold down the fort until guys like West, Hill, and C.J. Watson returned and they could make a push for the playoffs. With each passing game, that is looking more and more unlikely. With that being said, this undermanned Pacers team is competing each night and visibly putting in the effort to give themselves a chance to win. That alone is something Pacers fans can support in a season that can very well head for the worst.
On the bright side, losses like tonight, against teams like Boston — likely headed for the draft lottery as well — could be a good thing down the road. Become familiar with draft websites and college prospects, Pacers fans. Just in case.
Brandon Curry is the Pacers beat writer for the Indiana Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter @B_Curry89.