Pacers Season Ends In Sweep By Celtics
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INDIANAPOLIS – The black hole quarter never showed up for the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon.
But the timely plays necessary late continued to be elusive.
Even with Boston’s stars quiet in the scoring department, their firepower was too much, as the Celtics swept the Pacers behind a 110-106 victory on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Before Sunday’s ‘do or die’ game, Nate McMillan said there would be ‘no limits’ on minutes or the rotation for his team as they faced the brink of elimination.
McMillan held true to his word by taking Doug McDermott completely out of the rotation and riding bench players Tyreke Evans and Domantas Sabonis deep into the fourth quarter.
Through three quarters on Sunday, neither team shot the ball well with Boston clinging to a one-point lead in a back-and-forth contest.
The Evans (21 points on 7-of-18 shooting) and Sabonis (14 points on 6-of-9 shooting) duo carried the scoring burden in the 4th quarter for Indiana.
With Indiana leading 82-81 with 7 minutes to go, the game changed drastically following a Cory Joseph flagrant foul.
Boston went on an 18-5 run following the foul, with their reserves stepping up to make some huge plays as Kyrie Irving (14 points on 4-of-13 shooting) and Al Horford (14 points on 4-of-19 shooting) were limited scoring wise.
This 5-minute plus stretch saw Indiana make just one field goal.
With Irving and Horford struggling to score, Boston relied on a bench trio of Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier to score 49 points on 20-of-26 shooting.
The Pacers have now lost 4 straight playoff series, all coming as the higher seeded team. The 2013-14 season was the last time Indiana won a playoff series.
“All season long, and really since we got this group together last season, effort has not been a problem for us,” McMillan said after Sunday’s Game 4 loss. “Regardless of who was in uniform, what injuries may occur, our guys came out and gave us everything they have every single day. I’ve never had to question this team on their effort, and if there’s one thing a coach wants is that his players show up every day to play. Our guys 1 through 15 did that. The guys that didn’t get minutes and were on the inactive list, they kept themselves ready. We had a number of injuries this season where we had to have guys step in and play, and we were able to keep our head above water and finish fifth in the East. I’m just appreciative of the effort they gave us every single game. We talked about leaving everything we had on the floor. I thought we did.”
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
-Hayward, Boston Make The Plays Late: In Sunday’s first half, Gordon Hayward was most remembered for getting himself on a poster courtesy of a thunderous Myles Turner dunk. But the Indiana native responded in final quarter by icing the game. With the Celtics leading by 4 points with less than 5 minutes to go, Hayward scored 6 in a row. The points all came with Turner as the primary defender. First, Hayward earned an and-1 on Turner, and then he hit a late-clock three in Turner’s face. The three pointer concluded a 12-3 run by Boston which put the finishing touches on this sweep. The run came during a 5-minute plus stretch in which a Bojan Bogdanovic bucket at the rim was the lone field goal from Indiana. It was yet another dry spell at such an inopportune time for the Pacers. While Boston had several guys emerge with their vets quiet in the scoring department, Indiana’s 5 guards combined to go 15-of-44 from the field.
-Pacers Again Had Chances: Game 4 was yet another in this series with Indiana having a great chance to earn a victory. When Kyrie Irving and Al Horford combine to go 8-of-32 in a game, you should be in the ball game. And Indiana was on Sunday with Nate McMillan altering his rotation, and how his team defended Irving. McMillan put Darren Collison on Irving, moving Wesley Matthews over to Jayson Tatum. McMillan also left Doug McDermott on the bench for the first time all year, shortening the rotation to 8 players in the second half. The result was a back-and-forth game with Indiana having a fourth-quarter lead for a third straight game. But the closing was never there and it’s why, with Indiana’s season over, the Pacers must significantly upgrade their talent this offseason if they want postseason runs to be realistic moving forward.
-Very Disappointing Ending: This is a difficult to season to accurately define. By one measure, playing without Victor Oladipo for 46 games, and yet still finishing 48-34 is an unquestioned success. Of course, by another measure, getting swept in the playoffs and not winning a series for a fourth consecutive year stings. The sweep leaves an extremely sour taste. Many thought this would be a series that Boston would win in 5 or 6 games. But the Pacers were the first playoff team to see their season come to an end this April. With the Magic (over the Raptors), Nets (over the 76ers) and Clippers (over the Warriors) all winning road games this postseason, Indiana could not muster one victory. How hopeless the Pacers were offensively in this series was easily the most alarming part. Over the course of 328 quarters in the regular season, Indiana scored 12 or fewer points in just 3 quarters (0.9 percent of the time). In 16 playoff quarters, they had 3 of those ‘efforts’ (18.8 percent). It’s going to be a very interesting summer for the Pacers, with several critical decisions needed.