Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass
The win, coming in Boston’s first game after clinching a playoff spot while idle Tuesday, completed a three-game sweep of the season series with the Pacers. Side note: The last time that happened, in 2007-08, the Celtics won the NBA championship. The still-growing team would be, at best, an extreme long shot to do something like that again, but this team is alive in the chase for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference. Their win and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss at Denver cut the lead down to a game — two in the loss column.
The Celtics, 2 1/2 games ahead of the Washington Wizards for the second spot in the conference, are 25-9 at home and have won 12 of their last 13 at TD Garden and Wednesday was the second game of a six-game homestand for a team with only three road games remaining.
“I’ve been looking forward to this home stretch all season,” said Horford, who had another strong game. “When I looked at it, I was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait.'”
The Celtics opened a seven-point lead at the half and took over from there.
The Celtics took a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter before an Indiana 10-0 run that grew to 13-2 got the deficit down to six. The visitors then went cold the rest of the way.
Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points and dished out five assists, and Avery Bradley had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Celtics. Al Horford had 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, Jae Crowder recorded 15 points and six boards, and Kelly Olynyk registered 11 points and eight boards for Boston (46-26).
“We’re playing the right way right now,” said Bradley, who logged 39 minutes and later said, “Not even tired.”
“Every team is playing hard right now and it’s our job to continue to keep playing the right way and trying to prepare for the playoffs,” he said. “We’re almost there. We’re close.”
Horford is averaging 18.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.0 blocks over the last five games.
Paul George led the Pacers (36-35) with 37 points and Jeff Teague had 25 points and six assists. They were the only two Indiana players in double figures.
“They started getting away from us and I tried to keep the game as close as possible,” said George, who played the entire second half and was 11 of 26 from the floor, 5 of 13 from 3-point range in coming within two points of his season high.
“I felt the direction and the way the game was going, we were at a standstill and I thought it was the opportunity to be aggressive and will us closer heading into the fourth.”
The loss dropped the Pacers, who are sixth in the East, to 7-8 in their last 15 games — alternating wins and losses throughout the 15 games.
“You talk about strong starts and strong finishes,” said McMillan. “In the first and third quarters, we got off to slow starts. They came out very aggressive in the third quarter, hitting three or four straight threes.
“They got the momentum and kept the momentum.”
The Pacers did get a solid contribution from Lavoy Allen off the bench. He played 21:40 and grabbed 14 rebounds, nine on the offensive end, while scoring eight points.
The Celtics turned the ball over 14 times in the first half but only three more times after the break.
“We took care of the ball better and Allen got every rebound on the court,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “So one of these days we’ll put one of these together.”
NOTES: Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry reportedly interviewed for the vacant UMass coaching job. … G Isaiah Thomas extended his club record with a trey in his 46th straight game. He also registered his 120th straight double-figure scoring game, the first Celtic to do that since Antoine Walker had 126 starting March 31, 2000 and ending Jan. 11, 2002. Thomas is also closing in on Walker’s team record of 222 3-pointers set in 2001-02, finishing the game with 213. … The Celtics are 20-0 when leading after three quarters at home. … Boston G Avery Bradley reached the 100 3-pointer plateau for the third straight season after missing it his first four. … The Pacers open a three-game homestand against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, while the Celtics play the third of sixth straight at home when the Phoenix Suns visit.
Indiana at Boston
When: 7:30 PM ET, Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass
BOSTON – (Preview by The Sports Xchange) – The Boston Celtics made a big move toward solidifying the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference when they knocked off the third-place Washington Wizards on Monday. The Celtics will turn their sights toward chasing down the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers when they host the road-challenged Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas (knee) returned from a two-game absence on Monday and led the way with 25 points as the team pulled 2 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards in the standings, though the seeding isn’t the most important thing to everyone in the organization. “I think it’s about playing good basketball,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters before Monday’s game. “That stuff sorts itself out. Obviously, you want to be as good of a seed as you can. I think that there’s no question about that. But, again, I’d like to have some healthy games here to play some good basketball and see if we can figure ourselves out as we head into the next month-plus.” The Pacers are holding down the No. 6 spot in the East but are playing like two different team depending on the venue. Indiana alternated wins and losses in its last eight games – with each of the wins coming at home.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Indiana, CSN New England (Boston)
ABOUT THE PACERS (36-34): Indiana looked like a team that could do some damage in the playoffs in a 107-100 home win over the Utah Jazz on Monday, one day after a 116-91 loss at Toronto. “I think it’s obvious our guys feed off our crowd and our energy in our building,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told reporters after Monday’s triumph. “I thought we played solid start to finish against a very good team. We talked about playing with a sense of urgency and we did tonight.” Indiana plays three straight at home after Boston before finishing with five of eight on the road.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (45-26): Boston is closing in on the first-place Cavaliers but will prioritize the health of Thomas and others down the stretch. Thomas was not 100 percent on Monday but wanted to play in an important game in terms of the standings and came away without any further issues physically. “I feel alright,” Thomas told reporters. “I just can’t push off with one leg. It’s kind of tough right now but I’ll get that back with reps. For the most part I felt good.”
1. Celtics C Kelly Olynyk grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench on Monday.
2. Pacers SF C.J. Miles went 3-of-3 from 3-point range after struggling to 7-of-28 from beyond the arc in the previous five contests.
3. Boston took each of the first two meetings this season – both in Indiana – by an average of 6.5 points.
LOS ANGELES — An Adam Jones ground ball drove in Brandon Crawford with the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning, and the United States advanced to its first World Baseball Classic title game with a 2-1 victory over Japan at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
The U.S. meets Puerto Rico in the championship game Wednesday. Puerto Rico (7-0) makes its second straight trip to the finals after losing to the Dominican Republic in 2013. The U.S. lost to Japan in the 2009 semifinals.
Crawford singled off Kodai Senga (1-1) with one out in the eighth, and Ian Kinsler followed with a double that hit midway up the left-center-field fence in a game that was played in a steady drizzle.
Jones hit a weak grounder to drawn-in third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, who looked to the plate but lost control of the ball for a moment and had only one play at first as Crawford — running on the play — scored. Pat Neshek stranded runners on first and second base with two outs in the eighth inning and Luke Gregerson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save of the WBC. There were more umpire reviews (four) than hits (three) in the first three innings before the U.S. scored an unearned run in the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Christian Yelich reached second base when second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi could not handle a hard ground ball with one out. Eric Hosmer walked with two out before McCutchen singled to left field to drive in Yelich. Kikuchi’s one-out homer on a 98 mph fastball from reliever Nate Jones tied the game at 1 in the last of the sixth inning.
U.S. right-hander Tanner Roark made his second appearance and first start of the WBC, giving up two hits and no runs in four innings before being replaced by Jones.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: U.S. relievers Andrew Miller, Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson combined to get the final 11 outs after Japan tied the game on Ryosuke Kikuchi’s homer with one out in the sixth inning. Dyson, Neshek and Gregerson have not been scored upon in four WBC outings apiece. Melancon was making his first appearance after joining the team Monday.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Japan had runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth inning but cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo lined out to right. Japan had runners in scoring position in the first and third innings but starter Tanner Roark stranded both.
TIP OF THE CAP: Japan right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano gave three hits and one (unearned) run in six innings and reliever Kodai Senga struck out five while giving up a tainted run in two innings. Sugano may not have the name of previous Japanese WBC pitching stars such as Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda, but he was the MVP of the Japan Central League with the Yomiuri Giants in 2014 and was 9-6 with a 2.01 ERA with the Giants in 2016.
UP NEXT: The U.S. meets Puerto Rico in the championship game Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. Puerto Rico, the only team in the Western Hemisphere to win at least four games in each of the four WBCs, was shut out 3-0 by the Dominican Republic in final 2013 final. Puerto Rico beat the U.S. 6-5 in pool play Friday. Puerto Rico is also trying for its first WBC title