Kevin Garnett may have scored a game high 18 points and pulled down a team high 10 boards but it was one of his two assists that made the difference in the end.
Garnett hit a wide open Jeff Green under the basket for a layup with half a second left as the Boston Celtics pulled out an improbable 83-81 win over the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis on Wednesday night….
…improbable for many reasons, not the least of which was that the Celtics were down ten at the end of the third quarter and could have just rolled over and let the Pacers have their way, particularly since the Celtics were on the business end of a back to back – but that isn’t this Celtics’ team.
This is a team that turned their season around with an inspired overtime victory against the bully-laden Utah Jazz a week ago, then proceeded to trip up the Golden State Warriors in Boston before embarking on the back to back roadie that included a tough win over the 76ers in Philadelphia last night.
Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley both posted 13 point games on miserable shooting performances, but both also contributed mightily in other facets of the contest, Pierce pulling down eight boards and Bradley with his usual suffocating defense.
Green had 11 points off the bench to go along with seven rebounds and Jason Terry scored 10 for the Celtics, who now sit a season-high six games above .500 at 33-27, just five games behind the New York Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead and only 1 1/2 games out of the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Paul George led the Pacers with 16 points and also pulled down 7 rebounds for Indiana, who fell to 38-23 with the loss. George Hill scored 14, including a one man 8-0 run in the 4th quarter that seemed to spell doom for the Celtics at the time. Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson each scored 12, Hibbert coming away with a matching number of rebounds.
David West led all players with 16 boards to go along with his 11 points. All five Indiana starters scored in double figures, but Boston’s bench outscored the Pacers’ bench 29-16 as the most a Pacers pine rider could muster was seven from Orlando Johnson.
Boston trailed almost the entire game, and was down by 10 entering the final frame, but scored the first five points of the quarter, then hustled to get within one before Hill went on his solo scoring spree of 8 points in just over one minute of play to build Indiana’s lead back up to nine.
Scratching and clawing, the Celtics managed to grind the deficit back down to two points, then Bradley snuck in behind the defense for an uncontested layup with 1:21 left in regulation to tie the score at 81-81. Both teams bricked chances to take the lead, the Celtics getting the ball back on a rebound by Garnett with a chance to hold for the last shot.
Coming out of a time out and with the shot clock turned off, Garnett got the ball from Green at the top of the key and Green skirted Pierce’s pick on the left wing and took the pass from Garnett that appeared to be an Alley Oop attempt, but he fumbled the ball, regained possession and rose up for the game winning layup.
Indiana looks to get back on track making a swing through Florida where they will visit first Orlando to take on the Magic on Friday and then Miami to tip off against the reigning champion Heat on Sunday while the Celtics return home to host the Hawks on Friday before embarking on a mini roadie, visiting OKC to take on the Thunder on Sunday before heading to Charlotte to avenge a bad loss to the Bobcats last month.
Doc Rivers called the win at Utah last week the best win of the season for the Celtics, while Bradley said the same thing of last night’s win in Philly and Pierce lobbied that Wednesday night’s win over the Pacers was the best…
…but judging from how the Celtics have really come together and are playing their best ball of the year, the best wins may be yet to come.