Irving leads Celtics past Pacers
INDIANAPOLIS— Even in the wake of the fourth-best win streak in the history of the Boston Celtics franchise, Kyrie Irving knows the team is still growing.
Irving scored 25 points to go with six assists and four rebounds as the Boston Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-98 Saturday night, snapping the Pacers’ five-game win streak.
Boston has now won back-to-back games after a 104-98 loss Wednesday night snapped a 16-game winning streak.
The Celtics trailed the whole way until late in the third quarter, when it began to mount a comeback. A timeout following back-to-back empty possessions was the turning point in the game for the Celtics, who responded with consecutive baskets.
“It’s all part of the game,” Irving said of the timeout, during which Boston players were visibly frustrated with one another. “It’s interesting to see how people respond to those types of situations. When you have a developing group like we have, where we’re all getting to know one another and we’re able to say things that strictly apply to the game, it’s not anything personal, but we understand that things need to be done for us to be better as a team.”
Terry Rozier finished with 17 points after dropping a career-high 23 on Orlando in a 118-103 win Friday night. Rozier, who was among those animated in the Boston huddle during the third-quarter timeout, was glad the timeout occurred when it did.
“We had a little bit of adversity,” Rozier said. “Everybody was kind of getting on one another; but we never took it too far. It was something that we needed.”
Al Horford had 21 points — including 12 in the third quarter — and six assists and five rebounds, and made 3 of 4 attempts from 3-point range.
Boston (18-3) maintained its NBA-best record and shot better than 50 percent from the field for the first time all season, overcoming a poor first half to shoot 56.3 percent.
“We were fortunate to pull it out because we weren’t great in the first two and a half quarters,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “Some shots went our way which was good, Al went on his run...to our guys’ credit, they kind of stuck with it and pulled together.”
Myles Turner led the Pacers with 19 points and six rebounds, but was limited defensively for much of the second half because of foul trouble.
Indiana (11-9) entered the game shooting an NBA-best 40.5 percent from 3-point range, and looked as if it would continue that rhythm, shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first half while the Celtics connected on only 4 of 15 from deep.
A spinning hook from Domantas Sabonis gave Indiana a 42-29 lead with 7:48 remaining in the second quarter, its largest lead of the night. Sabonis finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.
The Pacers led 54-45 at halftime and never trailed in the first half, thanks in part to a 12-point first quarter from Lance Stephenson, who started in place of Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is averaging a team-best 22.8 points per game, but injured his knee in Friday’s 107-104 win over the Toronto Raptors. Stephenson finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
“We knew that this was how (Boston) has been playing the last couple of games,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan said. “We knew the team and Kyrie in that second half were going to get aggressive and they did just that.”
Boston opened the second half on a 7-2 run, and steadily gained momentum as Indiana cycled through substitutions due to foul trouble. The Celtics took a 63-62 lead, their first of the night, with five minutes remaining in the third quarter following a 3-pointer from Rozier. Back-to-back buckets from Horford and Rozier extended Boston’s lead to 72-66, forcing McMillan to call timeout.
“We just tried to be active with our hands and just tried to be everywhere, just like we usually are,” Rozier said. “We’re a defensive team. We went away from that in the first half, but we got back to it in the second half, and made them work.”
Boston locked down defensively in the second half, outscoring Indiana 37-16 in the third quarter and ending on a 19-4 run. The Pacers shot 6 of 18 in the third quarter, including 0 of 6 from 3-point range.
“It helps when you don’t have to take the ball out every possession and come down and set up your offense,” Irving said. “A couple steals here and there, a couple long rebounds that we got in transition, and just everybody staying together.”
Marcus Smart finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Celtics, shooting 7 of 8 from the field, and Jayson Tatum added 11 points.
NOTES: Indiana C Myles Turner has recorded at least one block in every game this season, and is currently tied for fifth in the NBA in blocks. ... The Pacers play games on back-to-back nights on 14 occasions this season. Only three NBA teams will play fewer back-to-back games. ... Indiana F Domontas Sabonis was shooting a team-best 56.6 percent from the field this season entering the game, which ranked 11th in the NBA. He was 5 for 13 on Saturday. ... Boston F Marcus Morris did not play Saturday due to a sore knee. ... Boston G/F Jaylen Brown also sat out Saturday for undisclosed personal reasons. ... This was Horford’s third game of the season with 20 or more points.