Basketball / NBA

Celtics clinch playoff spot with win over Pacers

AP

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.

Jayson Tatum scored 30 points for Boston, which snapped a 1-4 skid and is third in the Eastern Conference, while Gordon Hayward added 27 points, 10 boards and five assists in his home state.

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.

“Good win, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the week we’ve been having,” Smart said. “We were really calm. You’re going to have to learn to win games like this.”

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.

“We showed a lot of fight,” said Oladipo, who only made his season debut Jan. 29 due to a major knee surgery. “It’s been a minute since I’ve been in that position.”

T.J. Warren, who finished with 22 points, hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to complete Indiana’s 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.”

Boston shot 44 percent 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 percent.

“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.

Nets 104, Lakers 102

In Los Angeles, Spencer Dinwiddie scored 23 points and hit the tiebreaking jumper with 28.3 seconds to play, and Brooklyn beat the Lakers for its second straight win since interim coach Jacque Vaughn took over.

Anthony Davis missed a wide-open 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won it for the Los Angeles, which saw its four-game winning streak end after an emotionally charged weekend. Los Angeles lost to a sub-.500 opponent in its first game after back-to-back victories over NBA-leading Milwaukee and the powerhouse Clippers.

LeBron James had 29 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers.

Caris LeVert added 22 points as Brooklyn opened its four-game California road trip by knocking off the powerhouse Lakers, who lost for only the second time in 13 games. Vaughn’s are Nets unbeaten since he surprisingly replaced Kenny Atkinson last week.

In Other Games

Rockets 117, Timberwolves 111

Spurs 119, Mavericks 109

Magic 120, Grizzlies 115

Trail Blazers 121, Suns 105

Clippers 131, Warriors 107

Wizards 122, Knicks 115

Bulls 108, Cavaliers 103

Coronavirus banner