Pacers fend off Celtics in OT

Just 36 hours after returning home from the West Coast, Indiana pushed to the extra limit by short-handed Boston.

The Boston Celtics just kept coming back, much to the chagrin of the Indiana Pacers, who blew a double-digit lead and were pushed to extra minutes Friday night.That wasn’t ideal for Indiana, considering the team had landed 36 hours earlier in a flight home from California.

When the Celtics eventually missed some key shots late, the Pacers sank their free throws to claim a 107-103 overtime victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Celtics (12-22) were without Brendan Wright and Jeff Green after Wright was dealt to Phoenix for two draft picks and the team traded Green to Memphis for essentially another pick. And the Pacers seemed in control with a 13-point lead early in the third quarter.

But coach Brad Stevens’ team battled back in his hometown to outscore the Pacers 23-19 in the third quarter and 34-29 in the fourth. Point guard Avery Bradley sank a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds to tie the game and David West’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark.

West converted a three-point play for a four-point overtime lead, but the Celtics again rallied. Former Pacers guard Evan Turner hit a jumper to give the Celtics a one-point lead before West made two foul shots. Pacers center Roy Hibbert blocked a Turner shot and then Turner missed a layup. Pacers forward C.J. Miles made two more foul shots.

The Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5.9 seconds remaining. The Pacers’ C.J. Watson sank the first of two foul shots to put the game away. The Pacers (15-23) sank 30-of-34 free throws to the Celtics’ 11-of-16.

“We felt like we were the better team,” head coach Frank Vogel said in an interview televised by Fox Sports Indiana. “And if you’re the better team, you welcome five more minutes.”

Hibbert, who exited Wednesday’s loss at Golden State after five minutes with a sprained ankle, was aggressive early and bounced back with a double-double, 19 points and 11 rebounds, as well as five blocked shots and four assists. It was Hibbert’s ninth double-double of the season.

“They’re all important,” Vogel said. “I was just proud of our guys because you play a game 36 hours after you land from coming back from the West Coast, that’s always a tough energy game. We didn’t play well early, but I thought we played hard, we played with good energy. We didn’t make shots, which is part of the challenge from coming back from the West Coast. I was proud of the whole performance.”

Miles scored 17, Watson 15, Luis Scola 14, West 11 and Donald Sloan 10.

Bradley scored a game-high 23 points.

The Pacers venture to Philadelphia (6-29) for a Saturday night game, then return home next week to host the Minnesota Timberwolves (5-29) on Tuesday and the Detroit Pistons (12-24) on Friday.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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