Tyler Zeller scored 18 points, three other Celtics added 16 and Boston snapped the Indiana Pacers’ seven-game winning streak with a 93-89 victory Saturday night.
The Celtics have won four straight and moved into a tie for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot. Indiana is seventh.
George Hill scored a season-high 30 points for Indiana. C.J. Miles had 13.
Boston took control with a 17-4 run that started late in the first quarter and ended midway through the second with a 32-20 lead.
The Pacers spent the rest of the night playing catch-up. They finally closed to 91-89 on Rodney Stuckey’s 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left, but Brandon Bass made two free throws to seal it.
The victory also ended Boston’s three-game losing streak in Indy.
The Pacers looked rusty, tired or both most of the night even though it was Boston playing the second game of a back-to-back.
But in the second half, the Pacers rallied.
After Indiana trailed 45-37 at halftime, Hill scored six straight points to cap an 11-4 run that got the Pacers within one.
Boston responded by pushing the lead back to 54-48, closing the third quarter on an 8-4 spurt to make it 67-60 and taking a 77-66 lead early in the fourth on Marcus Smart’s 3.
Indiana got within four on C.J. Watson’s 3 with 4:41 to go, but couldn’t any closer until Stuckey’s 3 in the closing seconds.
Celtics: The most impressive part of Boston’s recent surge might be this: The Celtics have moved into playoff contention despite using 27 different starters this season. Pacers coach Frank Vogel has noticed. “It’s amazing he’s got them playing as well as they are with so much turnover,” Vogel said, referring to Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Pacers: One day after Paul George told reporters he didn’t want to mess up the chemistry of what had been the league’s hottest team, Vogel insisted George’s return would only help, not hurt. “The notion that he would disrupt us is laughable,” Vogel said. “That’s just him being selfless, being complimentary of his teammates.”
Celtics: Host Philadelphia on Monday.
Pacers: Host Toronto on Monday.