Pacers challenged Celtics in restart from the All-Star break and got special night from Turner, but lost in OT
Myles Turner turned in a crazy efficient, career-high shooting game. But the Pacers failed to get the scores they needed late and lost in overtime.
A 40-point game from Myles Turner, Boston’s two stars combining for 61 points, a chance for the Pacers to win it in regulation and then needing an extra session for the game, with a combined 280 points, to be settled…
Now that was a way to resume the season.
The competitive nature of the game, the intensity and pressure-filled moments is exactly what we all needed to see coming off an All-Star game where no defense was played.
The NBA’s All-Star break was not long enough — it never is — but the Pacers began the final six weeks of the regular season on Thursday against the Boston Celtics. It was a rare home game before being on the road for 11 of their next 14 games, what will be a daunting and unfavorable stretch.
“Yeah, nothing like a 41-minute overtime night straight from the break. I’ll take it though, good win,” Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum said sarcastically after finishing with 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists on what he felt an off night for himself. He was 3 for 12 from beyond the arc.
“Everybody in the league is in the same boat for the first game back. Been off for a week so regardless of who you play, the first game is always tough and a good one to win.”
This game featured 14 ties and 22 lead changes. After being down by 10 at halftime, the Pacers still refused to go away. The challenge playing from behind most of the night was that each time they drew even or took a brief lead, the Celtics responded.
And yet, the Pacers (26-35) had two opportunities at the end of regulation after the Celtics turned it over on consecutive possessions. Both times, though, Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton missed on a 3-point attempt while trying to create on the perimeter.
And that, combined with the fact that they lost in in overtime, had the usually upbeat Haliburton frustrated as he sat on the dais to answer questions. The opportunity to get a win out of the break over the team with the league’s best record was right there.
“I missed those shots and that’s on me,” he said after finishing with 22 points, 14 assists and one turnover in 40 minutes. “I should’ve gotten us a better one so put it on me.”
After the 142-138 overtime loss, Haliburton and coach Rick Carlisle briefly spoke in the locker room about the late-game situations and what more could be done.
“We’re gonna look closely at it,” Carlisle said. “Sometimes the best thing is to get out of his way. You try to manipulate the possession so much by bringing up a guy to get a switch and stuff like this and before you know it, you’re up against the clock and there’s a crowd.
“I really have trust in Tyrese and the guys that are out there.”
Carlisle had one timeout available, but he understandably chose not to use it. This team hasn’t been as effective in their half-court offense; they’re best getting it and scoring in transition.
“That’s a tough team to play against.” Tatum said. “They create a lot of problems defensively. They play with so much pace and freedom that they present a lot of problems.”
Calling a timeout would have enabled the Celtics time to huddle together and potentially tweak their lineup. So instead, Carlisle entrusted Haliburton, like he has all season, to read the defense and do what he saw fit.
As much as the team has talked about growth and development, getting into the right situations and closing games is absolutely part of it.
The team’s sharpshooting all game helped get them in a situation where they had multiple chances to win it. They made 22 3s, one shy of the franchise record, including eight in the third quarter.
Pacers center Myles Turner matched his career high with 40 points. He made 13 of 15 shots, including 8 of 10 from distance — a new career high. And he was 6 of 7 at the foul line with 10 rebounds.
“He was amazingly efficient offensively,” Carlisle said. “In game like this, if you’re gonna beat Boston, your bigs have got to be hitting shots.”
And as we’ve seen with several opponents, they willingly allowed for Turner to be open on the arc. He made those count, shooting as confident as ever and celebrating several times while skipping back on defense.
“He was just hitting shots, got hot and he made us pay,” said Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, who had 30 points and 11 rebounds. “Part of our game plan was we wanted him to take those, but he was knocking them down. We didn’t change our game plan, [coach] Joe [Mazzulla] stood with it — like, ‘he wants to keep shooting out there, shit, let him.’ Everybody else who is more of a threat might not be involved, but Myles did a good job of making us pay.
“He was the reason that made it so hard to guard because we were concerned about him a lot throughout the game, but 13 of 15 from the field — like he didn’t even miss tonight barely. He had a good night. He’s gonna sleep well.”
Turner acknowledged his contributions, but he wasn’t giddy about it. It doesn’t help if it’s not in a win. He read the defense and knew he needed to step up — and into the shot, which was going to be there.
He, too, was surprised they said in it as he made 3-pointer after 3-pointer, including three in a row after halftime. “I’ve played against Boston many times in the past,” he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve shot this well, but I’ll take it.”
And like Haliburton, Turner wasn’t smiling and overly enthusiastic postgame. (Watch the little things, like this, in a developmental season.) He noted how he’s proud of not being a one-dimensional and is instead able to show how he’s a three-level scorer.
“I think the past few years, I’ve kind of settled a lot on the perimeter and floated out there a lot,” he said. “I just like the fact that I’m going back to playing the way I know I can play, inside and out.”
The Pacers gave up 22 second chance points, were out-rebounded by 14, and the Celtics scored 27 points off turnovers. The focus and fight was there. But they lost this one on the details and the very thin margins, as Carlisle likes to say.
Ultimately, this one was a grind. It was a fun battle, one of the more enjoyable Pacers games this season. But it came in a loss, their 17th over the last 20 games.
“Essentially, this is a playoff game,” Carlisle said. “That’s the atmosphere, that’s the level of competition and this is great experience for our guys even though we didn’t win the game.”
The Pacers won’t practice on Friday. They’ll play in Orlando — and see ex-Pacer Goga Bitadze — on Saturday to begin a four-game roadtrip.
“This is gonna be the toughest stretch, the toughest test of the season,” said Turner. “This is obviously the most important. We’re a team that struggled on the road and I think this is a make-or-break point for us. That’s the attitude we have to have. Our backs are against the wall right now and we have to go out there and fight and play like it.”
Close losses aren't the worst thing for this team right now. Growth over the next 21 games is what we need.