Pacers 103, Celtics 96
INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Boston Celtics went to Indiana guaranteeing their three-week losing streak would end and went home with more disappointment.
The Pacers beat the Celtics 103-96 on Tuesday night to give Boston its 12th straight loss.
West started and played only 12 minutes because of flu-like symptons.
“When players like Delonte come in and guarantee wins, it’s a motivator,” O’Neal said. “I didn’t really see him at all in the second half. It’s a hard way to guarantee a victory when you have the flu. Don’t put your team out there bad if you’re not going to be out there to help them.”
The Celtics are two defeats short of breaking the franchise record for consecutive losses. They can tie the mark of 13 at home Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Even with the extra motivation, Indiana nearly blew a 20-point fourth-quarter lead. The Celtics outscored the Pacers 40-27 in the fourth quarter.
Boston coach Doc Rivers said coming close didn’t make him feel much better.
“I keep hearing these comments from other players on other teams and other coaches that the guys are still playing hard,” Rivers said. “That’s nice, but I would love to play hard and win a game.”
The Pacers won for the fourth time in five games, but they remained unsure of whether they were headed in the right direction after the fourth-quarter collapse.
“I think we relaxed,” Indiana guard Jamaal Tinsley said. “Playing a team like that, they’re little, they’re going to scramble and they’re going to make the game tough for us.”
Indiana led 76-56 at the end of the third quarter, but Boston chipped away at the lead throughout the final period. Boston’s Gerald Green hit a 3-pointer to cut Indiana’s lead to 100-96 with 26 seconds left.
Tinsley made the second of two free throws with 25.7 seconds left to push the lead to five, then he made two more free throws with 8.9 seconds remaining to end the threat.
Indiana, the worst shooting team in the league, shot a season-high 53.6 percent from the field. Tinsley scored a season-high 28 points and Jermaine O’Neal added 25 points and eight rebounds for the Pacers.
Tinsley saved the Pacers by making 10 of 11 free throws.
“That was it right there,” he said.
Al Jefferson led the Celtics with 15 points and 17 rebounds, his 20th double-double of the season.
Indiana shot 11 for 18 from the line in the final period to help the Celtics get back into the game. Overall, the Pacers made 29 of 46 free throws. Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said the only thing that saved the Pacers was that the Celtics shot an even worse 19 for 31.
Boston led 30-24 at the end of the first quarter, but the Pacers outscored the Celtics 28-13 in the second to take a 52-43 lead at halftime. Indiana shot 61 percent in the first half, including an 11-for-15 effort in the second quarter.
Indiana stayed in control with strong defense in the third quarter. The Pacers held the Celtics to 5-for-19 shooting in the period and extended their lead to 76-56 on a dunk by Troy Murphy with 11 seconds left in the quarter. The Pacers shot 59 percent from the field in the first three quarters.
The Celtics scored 13 points in each of the second and third quarters, making their fourth-quarter explosion irrelevant.
“Close, but it’s kind of fool’s gold,” Rivers said. “We made a run at the end we got it closer than I’m sure they would have liked it. We had a chance. But when you score 13 points in multiple quarters, it’s tough to win a game.”
Celtics F Paul Pierce missed his 20th straight game with a foot injury. He leads the team with 26.6 points per game. … Indiana F Marquis Daniels sat out with a sore left knee. … Pacers G Keith McLeod still has yet to debut for the Pacers. He’s been out with an abdominal strain since he was traded from Golden State. … O’Neal heaved a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired on a second-quarter possession. It was his fourth 3-point attempt of the season. … West averaged 20.5 points in the four games before Tuesday.