After a well-played first half, the Indiana Pacers were up nine on the best team in the East, the Boston Celtics.
Then the third quarter happened. The Celtics won the quarter 37-16 and were suddenly up 12 entering the final quarter.
“Their team showed us tonight that there’s another level you have to get to,” said Nate McMillan. “That’s what we’re working towards: being able to play with that type of pressure defensively, with the same pace offensively.”
The 5-game winning streak is over. Still, at 11-9, the Indiana Pacers can’t be too disappointed by their start to the season. They stayed in the game against the Celtics despite not having their leading scorer in Victor Oladipo, who was out with a bruised knee.
Lance Stephenson stepped into the starting lineup in his place and started the game where he left off the night before, scoring 12 points in the first quarter and getting the crowd amped up yet again.
Brad Stevens seemed to notice and the Celtics adjusted their coverage on Stephenson as he scored only four more points the remainder of the game.
Stephenson ended his first start with the Pacers since the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals with 16 points, five assists and eight rebounds.
The Pacers were led in scoring by Myles Turner, who had 19 points while making 7 of his 9 shot attempts.
He did most of his damage in the fourth quarter as the Pacers tried to comeback but were unable to put together a string of stops to make a run.
Turner took only three shots (making all three) in the first three quarters as he dealt with foul trouble. Twice in the first half Kyrie Irving snapped his head back on a Turner screen to exaggerate contact and earned a whistle from the referee.
The referee told McMillan after halftime that he had missed both calls after reviewing film.
The two calls hurt the Pacers in that fateful third quarter as Turner was stuck on the bench for most of the Celtics run and limited in his aggressiveness while he was out there before picking up his fourth foul.
Even with the foul trouble, Myles Turner still played 30 minutes and only attempted nine shots. Eventually, the Pacers will have to more actively look to get Turner involved especially on nights without Oladipo.
Domantas Sabonis added 17 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-13 shooting.
TJ Leaf didn’t play for the third time in the last four games as Pacers went to rarely used Joe Young (four points, three assists, two rebounds) and Damien Wilkins (four points) off the bench.