The Boston Celtics are searching for answers during their longest losing streak of the season. They may not find them against an opponent that's had their number.
The Celtics limp home looking to end a frustrating four-game skid in Wednesday night's matchup with the Indiana Pacers.
An inability to win close games has Boston (19-19) at .500 for the first time since it was 7-7 on Nov. 24. The Celtics have lost four times by six points or less during a 1-6 stretch that began with home defeats to two of the league's worst teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn.
''Very frustrating, especially when they're winnable games,'' guard Isaiah Thomas said. ''We're just not doing enough of the little things to win these games."
Offensive woes have been the biggest contributor to the tailspin, though the Celtics were let down by their usually reliable defense in Tuesday's 120-114 loss at New York. The Knicks were 13 of 18 from the field during a 35-point fourth quarter and shot 53.1 percent overall, the second-highest mark by a Boston opponent this season.
"It's hard not to think that basket's bigger than it is because of the way we defended them," coach Brad Stevens said.
The Celtics shot 38.3 percent and averaged 94.7 points over their previous three losses, and they've been woeful from the 3-point line throughout their seven-game slump, making 25.5 percent.
Those numbers don't match up well against Indiana (22-16), among the NBA's top defensive teams. The Pacers have been especially stingy during the new calendar year, limiting opponents to 93.5 points per game and 39.2 percent shooting while winning four of six.
They improved to 19-3 when allowing less than 100 points with Tuesday's 116-97 victory over depleted Phoenix. The Pacers showed some offensive skill as well, particularly during a fourth quarter in which they outscored the Suns 36-21 while hitting 14 of 21 shots.
"We have a lot of guys that can score the ball," said George Hill, who had 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. "It's on us. When we have those bad shooting nights, it's because we're forcing, not making the extra pass and playing the right way."
Hill is 18 of 31 from 3-point range while averaging 15.6 points over a seven-game span.
Boston has received plenty of production from Thomas, who followed up a 35-point effort in Sunday's 101-98 loss at Memphis with 34 against the Knicks. Marcus Smart is shooting 21.6 percent over his last four, however, and Evan Turner was 7 of 24 while averaging 5.7 points over the team's 0-3 trip.
Turner had 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting in Indiana's Nov. 11 visit to TD Garden, but the Pacers held Thomas to 14 in earning a 102-91 win. Paul George finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds that night and had the same line in Indiana's 100-98 home victory over Boston a week earlier.
Boston, which has lost three straight and six of eight at home, has dropped seven of 10 in the series.
Indiana's Rodney Stuckey is questionable for the game after exiting Tuesday's contest with a right foot injury.