The Celtics have played some of their best ball this season against the NBA’s top-shelf clubs.
They beat the Heat in Miami, gave the Spurs trouble for a half in San Antonio, and then made the Indiana Pacers sweat for most of Friday’s affair at TD Garden.
But the Celtics won only one of those games (Miami), and it required near-perfect play from start to finish, with a buzzer-beating miracle shot as the topper.
Against the other two teams, the better squad used the second half to lean on a lesser opponent, finally knocking the Celtics over.
The Spurs did it Wednesday, and the Pacers did it two days later, earning a 97-82 win to improve to 11-1.
It took Celtics rookie coach Brad Stevens two seasons at Butler before he amassed 10 total losses, as he lost four games in his first season, six in the next.
But one month into the Celtics season, Stevens’s team has a 4-10 record and has lost six straight games.
The Celtics led, 50-42, at halftime, their largest lead, after Jordan Crawford banked in a 31-footer at the buzzer. He made all eight of his shots in the first two quarters.
By that point, the Celtics were shooting 59 percent (23 of 39) against a team that entered the game leading the NBA in defensive field goal percentage (39.5).
But in the third quarter, the Pacers’ impressive defense locked down, and the Celtics fell apart.
Boston had nearly four times as many turnovers (11) as field goals (3) in the quarter and was outscored, 25-8.
Pacers forwards Paul George and David West combined for 18 points in the quarter, and their team poured it on in the fourth, leading by as many as 20.
George finished with a game-high 27 points, and West and Luis Scola added 17 apiece. Lance Stephenson had a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Crawford scored 24 points, hitting 10 of 12 shots, and Jeff Green added 20 points.
Again, points off turnovers were crucial. The Pacers cashed in on 23 Celtics miscues, turning them into 30 points. The Celtics, meanwhile, turned 16 Pacers turnovers into just 12 points.
The Celtics travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Saturday night.