INDIANAPOLIS — Marcus Smart’s leaning bank shot in the final minute gave the Celtics’ the lead after the team blew a 19-point advantage and Boston then held on for a 114-111 victory Tuesday night over the Indiana Pacers to clinch a playoff spot for a sixth consecutive year.
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 11, 2020
Smart put the Celtics ahead for good at 111-109 with 49.7 seconds left by scoring in the lane over Domantis Sabonis, who led Indiana with 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Smart made two free throws with seven seconds to go for a three-point edge, and Justin Holiday missed badly on a contested 3-pointer as time expired.
Victor Oladipo finished with a season-high 27 points to power a stunning comeback for the Pacers, who fell into an 85-66 hole late in the third quarter.
T.J. Warren, who finished with 22 points, hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to complete the furious rally and tie the score at 104 with three minutes to play.
Sabonis’ spin move and score on Daniel Theis pushed the Pacers in front 107-104, but the struggling Celtics proved up to the challenge of recovering.
“We probably needed it,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Go down three and find a way to win is probably a good thing for our team in the long run. That was hard. That was a good thing.”
Boston shot 44% from the field and did just enough from 3-point range (13 makes) and the foul line (19 of 22 accuracy) to hold off the Pacers, who shot 50%.
“We have 18 games left after this,” Stevens said. “It’s hard to go to the playoffs. I didn’t know (we clinched). We’re far from a finished product, but we’ve got to start ascending soon, so it was important to go through a night like tonight.”
Boston led 30-22 after the first quarter and 59-50 at halftime. It was 94-80 entering the fourth.