The Indiana Pacers continue to distance themselves from a playoff spot. And time is running out.
A 101-87 road loss to the Boston Celtics Wednesday at TD Garden has dropped the Pacers (32-43) two games out of the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final postseason spot. The Celtics (34-41) jumped into that position and own the head-to-head tiebreaker on Indiana with seven regular-season games remaining.
There are other teams in the hunt, but the Pacers’ recent defensive struggles are what they need to be concerned about. Indiana has allowed at least 100 points in eight of the past 10 games, and is 1-7 in those games.
The Pacers are 2-9 in their last 11 games.
That’s why they’re in danger of falling out of this playoff chase rather quickly.
They fall behind early, rally to make things interesting, then lose. That’s what happened for a second consecutive night on the road, this time in Boston, where the Celtics led by six after one quarter and by 11 at halftime.
The Pacers trimmed the deficit to four entering the final quarter, but Boston outscored the visitors 32-25 at the end.
Just like in previous games, point guard George Hill led the Pacers with a game-high 21 points, but the opponent had more balance. Boston center Tyler Zeller and reserve center Kelly Olynyk each scored 19, guard Eric Turner and reserve forward Jae Crowder had 13 apiece and guard Avery Bradley added 11.
The Celtics’ substitutes enjoyed a 48-30 scoring advantage.
If the Pacers are going to sustain any kind of a playoff pulse, they must win Friday against the Charlotte Hornets (32-42) and on Sunday against the Miami Heat (34-40), both of those games at home at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Winnable road games at the New York Knicks (14-60) and Detroit Pistons (29-46) come after that before a finishing stretch with the Oklahoma City Thunder (42-32) and Washington Wizards (42-33) at home and a regular-season finale at the Memphis Grizzlies (51-24).
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.