Winning ugly. It’s a term that gets tossed around sports more often than not.
The Indiana Pacers have their fair share of these victories this season. Their relentless defense that has been the NBA‘s best to this point leads to slow-paced, low scoring games that aren’t necessarily attractive to the casual basketball fan. They allow just 95.5 points per 100 possessions, which is the top mark in the league.
The Pacers win games playing this way and are set up for a deep playoff run because of it — a playoff run that could very well mean topping the Boston Celtics.
Boston gave Indiana a taste of its own medicine on Wednesday night, as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat the Pacers, 83-81.
The Celtics adopted much of what makes the Pacers’ defense so effective — forcing teams to take an abundance of contested mid-range jumpers, and running shooters off the three-point line. Indiana shot a putrid 22.2 percent from behind the arc and couldn’t connect from the mid-range, as they hit just four of their 19 attempts. The Pacers also made just one corner 3-pointer — a location that is widely regarded as providing the second-most valuable shot in basketball.
Boston’s excellent defense in the second half allowed them to overcome sloppy offensive possessions and uncommonly bad transition defense early on. Indiana scored just 32 total points in the second half, and just 13 in the fourth quarter.
The most telling play of the game was the one that won Boston the game. Not just because of that fact alone, but how it confused Indiana’s stingy defense.
The collective defensive breakdown by the Pacers allowed Garnett to thread a pass to Green for the game-winning reverse lay-up. It was a rare example of multiple defensive screw ups that the Pacers have made common against the savvy, veteran-led Celtics this season.
Nevertheless, Boston once again proved they could play the Pacers’ scrappy game and beat them at it — a bad sign, considering Indiana could very well see these Celtics early on in the playoffs.
Brandon Curry is an NBA writer for Rant Sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter @ByBrandonCurry