Rick Carlisle knows his Indiana Pacers team didn’t play well enough to come away with a road win against the Boston Celtics on Monday night.
However, the championship-winning coach knows it was a matter of execution and not a lack of heart heading into Wednesday night’s rematch with Boston in Indianapolis.
“We’ll look at all of it and see where we can improve for Wednesday, but I’m once again very proud of the way these guys are fighting and competing and scrapping and sticking together,” Carlisle said. “And that’s got to be who we are.”
Indiana overcame a 12-point deficit in the third quarter to force overtime, but ultimately came up short in a 101-98 loss to Boston.
Torrey Craig had a team-high 19 points off the bench while Pacers star Domantas Sabonis posted a triple-double with 11 points, 23 rebounds and 10 assists.
Sabonis went 3-of-12 from the field one game after dropping a career-high 42 points in a 125-113 win over Utah to snap the Pacers’ season-high six-game skid.
“I feel like I just missed a lot of bunnies today,” Sabonis said postgame. “You know, a lot of normal shots that I usually make. So that’s really much it.”
Justin Anderson, Caris LeVert, Goga Bitadze and T.J. Warren all missed the game for Indiana in COVID-19 health and safety protocol. Malcolm Brogdon (sore right Achilles), T.J. McConnell (right wrist) and Chris Duarte (personal reasons) were also sidelined.
Boston rode the performances of its All-Star duo to victory as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 50 points and 27 rebounds in the win.
Brown had a team-high 26 points to go along with a career-high 15 rebounds while Tatum added 24 points and 12 boards.
The Celtics limited the Pacers to 89 points in regulation before outscoring the visitors 12-9 in the extra period. Boston shot 39.8 percent from the floor (35-of-88) while holding Indiana to 38.3 percent shooting (36-of-94).
“We defended well overall — even to hold them to 98 in an overtime game is a pretty good job defensively,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “But (we’ve) got to be much sharper and crisper offensively.”
The win was Boston’s second in a row and fourth in six games following a stretch of nine losses over a 13-game span.
Amid rumblings of a needed shakeup, Tatum said he and Brown had a heart-to-heart to recommit themselves to turning the Celtics’ season around.
“We see all the things about ‘we can’t play together,’ and everybody in the media is saying that one of us got to go,” Tatum said. “We just had a talk about (how) we both want to be here; we both want to figure it out.”
Marcus Smart’s status for Wednesday is uncertain after the Celtics’ starting guard exited Monday’s game with a right thigh contusion in the third quarter and did not return. Smart finished with 11 points in nearly 23 minutes.
Boston guard Payton Pritchard remained sidelined for a fourth straight game on Monday in COVID-19 protocol.
–Field Level Media