‘We all have to do a better job’: Pacers well aware of the challenge ahead

“We got no choice."

Indiana Pacers v Boston Celtics - Game Two
Domantas Sabonis reacts during the fourth quarter of Game 2. –Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

What’s a team to do after blowing double-digit leads in back-to-back playoff games?

“Just got to go back, regroup, and watch film,’’ said Indiana Pacers shooting guard Tyreke Evans. “We got to get ready for these two home games.’’

The fifth-seeded Pacers will return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse empty-handed, after squandering an 11-point, fourth-quarter advantage in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Celtics. Indiana totaled a mere 12 points on 4-for-17 shooting in the final 12 minutes of Wednesday night’s contest — a bleak stretch that was reminiscent of the 2-for-19 performance that derailed the team in the third quarter of Game 1 just two nights prior.

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“There’s always been one quarter that kills us in the second half,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said after Wednesday’s 99-91 loss. “The biggest thing, like I’ve always said, is we just got to put together a 48-minute game and we haven’t been able to do that.”

“We got to do a better job of finishing games like that,’’ added coach Nate McMillan. “We all got to do a better job. I have to do a better job. We all have to do a better job.’’

For starting point guard Darren Collison, that process began in the visitors’ locker room immediately following the final buzzer. With both feet dunked in an ice bucket, and another bag of ice wrapped around his knee, Collison sat crouched at his stall, watching film on an iPad. As his teammates showered, got dressed, and departed for the bus, Collison stayed put, intently scrubbing through clips until a staffer nudged him that it was time to get going.

The extra film session is perhaps an indication that the urgency is growing for the Pacers, and Collison knows his team, down 0-2, has little time to waste.

“We got no choice [but to bounce back],’’ he said. “You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re down three games.’’

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Collison is more than aware of the problematic scoring droughts. Stuck at 82 points for nearly eight minutes of the fourth quarter Wednesday, the Pacers missed nine straight field goal attempts, along with two free throws, and committed a shot clock violation during that span.

He’s also aware of the two ruinous turnovers that sealed Indiana’s fate in the game’s final moments. With 12.1 seconds remaining and a chance to tie the game at 94 apiece, shooting guard Wesley Matthews bungled the possession before it could even get started by hurling the inbounds pass over Bogdan Bogdanovic’s head.

But Collison noted there are still some positive takeaways from team’s two showings in Boston. The 31-year-old is happy with the Pacers’ starts as well as their intensity level. He said he wants the group to stay confident and aggressive from the jump, emphasizing the importance of maintaining that for 48 minutes.

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“I don’t think either team is going to back down,’’ he said. “Whether we’re up by 10 or we’re down by 10, I think both teams are still going to make it a game because each team plays hard. It’s two tough teams that are playing hard. Nobody is going to give in.’’

While the Pacers are hoping their home crowd can offer a boost to help them even the series — and earn their first win against Boston since All-Star point guard Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending knee injury — the Celtics seem to have a good idea of what they’ll be up against.

“That’s where the big test comes,’’ said point guard Kyrie Irving. “Here, we got our families, we got everybody here supporting us, rooting us on. Now, when we go to Indiana, it’s the total opposite. It’s just us in the trenches, where we’re out there and we really got to focus in. I’m looking forward to that challenge for us.’’

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