INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Isaiah Thomas fought through an off-shooting night, then came through for the Boston Celtics when it matter most.
Thomas scored 23 points, including Boston’s final eight, to lead the visiting Celtics past the Indiana Pacers 105-99 on Saturday night.
“Isaiah did a lot for our team tonight even though he wasn’t shooting well,” Avery Bradley said of his teammate’s 12-point fourth quarter. “That’s what the game is all about, the fourth quarter.”
Thomas had just four points through 34 minutes before scoring 19 over the final 14 minutes. He hit several clutch shots to keep Indiana at bay and sealed the win at the foul line in the final 30 seconds.
With all-star Paul George sitting out the game with a sprained left ankle, the Pacers needed the help Thomas was affording them. After starting hot, the Pacers looked as if they wouldn’t miss their leading scorer.
In the first half, Indiana was crisp on offense, moving the ball, spacing the floor and getting the shots they wanted. But after halftime, they cooled off from the field and looked scattered at times on both ends of the floor.
Boston lingered, and all they needed was Thomas to get involved.
With his team struggling to seize control of a tight contest, Thomas surged in the fourth quarter. Nursing a 91-89 lead with 4:04 left, Thomas calmly hit a floater in the lane. After Monta Ellis hit a free throw to pull Indiana within 97-94 with 1:31 left, Thomas hit a pair of free throws, scored on a fastbreak layup with a minute left, and then added four free throws to seal Boston’s second road win of the year.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan said his team didn’t challenge Boston in the final minutes to play to Indiana’s strengths.
“We want to make teams defend, get to our second, third, fourth option,” McMillen said. “You don’t win games when you don’t make plays down the stretch.”
Kelly Olynyk scored 16 for the Celtics, who were playing the first of two straight road games. Amir Johnson scored 14 and grabbed nine rebounds, while Bradley had 13 points and five assists.
Jeff Teague led Indiana with 20 points and 4 assists. Myles Turner scored 17 and had 8 rebounds. Ellis notched 15 points in the Pacers’ first home loss of the season.
Boston: Al Horford sat out for the fifth straight game due to NBA concussion protocol but did travel with the team on its two-game road trip … Saturday’s win was Boston’s second in a row after losing three straight. … Terry Rozier had a career-high 11 points. … Isaiah Thomas went 14-for-15 from the foul line.
Indiana: Rodney Stuckey sat out for the ninth time in 10 games with a strained right hamstring. … The Pacers honored their teams of the 1960s during halftime. This season marks the 50th anniversary of the Pacers franchise. … After hitting 13 of their first 23 shots in the first quarter, the Pacers shot just 36.5 percent over the final three quarters. … Indiana was held to less than 100 points for just the second time this season.
PG SITS BUT SPEAKS
George offered his assessment of the team’s disappointing loss at home. “It was really frustrating, especially at home against a good team,” he said of sitting out the game Saturday. “I thought our problems were much of the same thing. We were real stagnant on offense once again.”
James Young got hot at different junctures of Saturday’s game and proved to be a key in Boston’s win. He scored 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench on 5-of-6 shooting. In his five appearances before Saturday, Young hadn’t scored in the 18 minutes of action he’d seen. His dunk and 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter helped Boston take a 79-76 lead into the final period.
Boston: visits New Orleans on Monday to complete a 2-game road trip.
Indiana: is home against Orlando on Monday in the second of four straight home games.