The Indiana Pacers had already beaten the Boston Celtics twice this season, once in Boston and once in Indiana, both quite comfortably. With most saying that the ageing Celtics are "done" and with Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Jermaine O'Neal out with injuries, it looked, at least on paper, that the Pacers were going to run away with this one too.
Instead, what we witnessed was vintage Paul Pierce and a reminder that you can't ever count out the heart of a champion. Despite missing three key players and coming off a tiring come from behind over the Magic the day before, the Celtics turned back the clock and cruised to an easy 94-87 victory (a lot easier than the scoreline suggested) over the better rested Pacers (who were coming off the impressive win over the Bulls in Chicago).
Not a lot to say except that I could have seen this one coming. It's hard enough to beat any team three times within a few weeks, let alone a team like the Celtics with a guy like Paul Pierce. The guy just gets it done through sheer will sometimes. I see him slow-driving the lane and wonder how on earth he can get to the rim so easily over younger, more athletic players (Danny Granger and Paul George in particular got torched).
Unfortunately, the Pacers probably could have still won this one had they played better -- instead, they turned back the clock too...to the Jim O'Brien Pacers who couldn't defend if their lives depended on it.
- Let's start with the positives -- Danny Granger looks to be getting his offensive groove back, shooting well for most of the night before finishing with 21 points (7-16 shooting) and 6 rebounds. Sadly, it seems that when his offense takes off, his defense takes a step back. Still, good to see Granger finally breaking out of a horrible slump.
- Also positive was David West, who continues to be aggressive in finding his niche with this team. He had 14, 8 and 3, but as usual, his positive impact on this team went beyond the stat line.
- A scary moment when Roy Hibbert, already with a broken nose, hurt his ankle during the game -- fortunately it does not look serious as he returned.
- Of particular concern has been the Pacers bench of late. When Dahntay Jones is your best bench player you know you're in deep crap. George Hill has suddenly hit a wall after breaking out of his early season slump. He has never been a great playmaker, but when his shot isn't falling he becomes a liability sometimes. Tyler Hansbrough continues to look lost in the offense. He needs to get himself back into it, and soon.
- Another concern is the Pacers inconsistency, something which has troubled this team for what feels like forever. They beat the Lakers in LA and get pounded by the Magic at home. They beat the Bulls in Chicago and then get pounded by a wounded and ageing Boston team.