Pacers can't overcome strong Celtics defense in Game 2, fall behind 0-2 in series

The Pacers were in Boston on Thursday night
May 23, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Obi Toppin (1) dribbles the ball past Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) in the first half during game two of the eastern conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Obi Toppin (1) dribbles the ball past Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) in the first half during game two of the eastern conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON — The Indiana Pacers were in TD Garden on Thursday night for Game 2 of the 2024 Eastern Conference Semifinals. They were trying to topple the Boston Celtics after dropping Game 1.

The first game of the series featured far too many errors from the Pacers, who gave the game away with more than 20 turnovers. They feel like they beat themselves and were hoping to have a more focused performance this time around. Their offense can keep up with anyone, but they gave the Celtics too many chances two nights ago.

To kick off the Game 2 action, the Pacers were attacking the rim well. Their offense pushed into the paint and played from there either via a strong pass or finish. They were up 8-7 after a few minutes, it was a much better start than their 12-0 deficit from Game 1.

The game's style continued to feature a ton of scoring for the next few minutes and Indiana clung to a small lead. WIth 6:57 to go, the battle had its first stoppage with the blue and gold ahead 16-15. Both groups were having little trouble generating whatever shot they wanted.

Indiana's bench hit hard for the next few minutes as T.J. McConnell and Obi Toppin continued their valuable play from Game 1. When McConnell is paired with another ball handler, the second unit usually hums.

After one period, the Pacers were ahead 27-25. Their balance was impressive early, with McConnell's seven points leading the team. Everybody got involved, and the visitors defended well enough to hold a lead after 12 minutes.

To get quarter number two rolling, the Celtics scored four straight points. It ignited the crowd and forced a Pacers timeout. Boston was crushing Indiana on the offensive glass, and it was changing their fortunes early.

Boston kept rolling. They scored the first 17 points of the second period and were ahead by 15 with 7:04 until halftime. Indiana looked miserable. They couldn't get a good look at all and called two timeouts in the first five minutes of the second frame.

Aaron Nesmith ended the Celtics run at the foul line, but the Pacers still had a ton of work to do. They were down 13 and struggling with Boston's incredible defense. The visitors needed to find their pace again and create some good shots.

They were able to in the next few minutes as they went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit down to single digits, but the Celtics answered with a few more baskets and led by 13 with three minutes to go until halftime. Indiana was trying to speed things up, but Boston's defense was holding strong.

With just under two minutes until the end of the second period, Boston was still up 13. The blue and gold needed a strong close to the frame to capture some momentum going into halftime. They were in danger of falling too far out of the action.

Pascal Siakam scored a quick six points to put a dent in the Celtics advantage, and the Celtics couldn't answer. That's what Indiana needed, and Siakam scored once again with a mean dunk on the next trip down the floor. Suddenly, Indiana was back in the game.

That burst changed the feeling of the duel. Siakam's run was a solo 8-1 surge, and the Pacers were down just six at halftime at 57-51. It was still a close game, and Siakam led the blue and gold with 16 points.

To kick off the third period, Siakam kept scoring, but the Celtics were answering. The Celtics six-point lead expanded to seven in the first three minutes of the second half, but Siakam's run was keeping Indiana alive.

Siakam continued to find the net and reached 26 points as he cut the Boston lead down to two. The veteran forward was up to 26 points at the time, and the hosts edge was shrinking. It was a tight battle thanks to Siakam's brilliance dating back to the first half.

Boston pushed ahead slightly in the next few minutes and led by seven with 5:20 left in the third period. Around that time, both teams made a few substitutions. The Pacers needed their bench to be great in the second half.

Instead, the hosts pushed their edge to 11 with 3:44 to go in the period. They were showing off a high defensive level throughout the game, and Indiana really struggled in those instances. Boston was surging ahead.

They continued to do so for the rest of the quarter and led 93-80 after three. Jaylen Brown was up to 33 points for the hosts, more than matching Siakam's 26. The Pacers had to be better on defense if they wanted a chance to win this game in the final period.

The final period opened with better play from the Celtics, who were up by 15 after three minutes. Around that time, the Pacers announced that star guard Tyrese Haliburton had a sore left leg and his night was over. That was a big blow for Indiana, who needed all the offensive juice they could get.

Indiana searched for answers early in the final period, but they weren't able to cut into the lead for much of the first five minutes of the quarter. They were down 17 at the time and had yet to crack 90 points. If they couldn't get some stops, they were going to lose.

They weren't able to for the next stretch of play, and the Pacers were down 16 with 4:33 to go. They were close to losing Game 2 — short of perfect play down the stretch, they were going to head back to Indianapolis trailing 2-0 in the series.

Indiana wasn't able to go on a run, and they were still down double figures with two minutes left. They were going to fall in Game 2. Their offense, which has been impressive throughout the playoffs, wasn't able to crack the Celtics defense at all Thursday night.

The final score was 126-110 in favor of Boston. They were up by just two in the third quarter then rolled the rest of the way. The Celtics now lead 2-0 in the series.

SIakam finished with 28 points and five rebounds. Andrew Nembhard added 16 points and five assists while Haliburton had 10 points and eight assists prior to his exit.

Game 3 is on Saturday.

  • Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton makes Third-Team All-NBA, earns a larger contract via rookie-scale extension. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers vs Boston Celtics Eastern Conference Finals series schedule. CLICK HERE.
  • Historic offensive night for Indiana Pacers leads to historic Game 7 win over New York Knicks. CLICK HERE.
  • Indiana Pacers can't overcome turnovers and lose Conference Finals Game 1 to Boston Celtics. CLICK HERE.
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Tony East


Tony East is the Publisher of AllPacers. He has previously written for Forbes Sports, the West Indianapolis Community News, WTHR, and more while hosting the Locked On Pacers podcast.