For those skeptical of the Celtics’ chances in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Saturday night proved to be a statement game.
The Indiana Pacers came into the contest as the hottest team in the NBA, winning seven straight games and 13 of their last 15 overall. Meanwhile, the Celtics arrived in Indiana having already played four games over the past six nights in three different cities.
Between fatigue and injuries (Isaiah Thomas missed his third straight game with a back injury), most Celtics fans probably chalked this one up as a loss before the game even started. Brad Stevens and company proved that contingent wrong, grinding out a hard fought 93-89 win against Indiana.
Tyler Zeller scored a team-high 18 points for the visitors, while Jae Crowder added 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench in 33 active minutes. George Hill had a game-high 30 points for the Pacers, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half. The hosts trimmed that deficit to one point in the second half, before the Celtics used a balanced scoring effort (four players in double figures) to close out the win.
Boston has now won a season-high four games in a row and six of their last seven contests. The victory also pulls the Celtics within just a half game of the Charlotte Hornets for the final playoff spot in the East. Indiana also leads Boston by just one full game for the No. 7 seed.
The Celtics will go for five straight wins (which would be a career-high for Brad Stevens) on Monday night against the Sixers at TD Garden.