INDIANAPOLIS — The Boston Celtics proved to the Indiana Pacers that they won’t be a pushover if the two teams play in the first round of the playoffs.
Kevin Garnett found Jeff Green for a layup with 0.5 seconds left to lead the Celtics to a 83-81 victory over the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday.
“I switched to the play that (assistant coach Armond Hill) wanted me to run, and it was great,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “It worked out perfect.”
After Boston scored, Indiana’s George Hill tried to throw a lob to Paul George at the rim, but Boston’s Paul Pierce blocked the pass. The Celtics closed the game on an 11-0 run over the final 4:36.
Garnett led the Celtics (33-27) with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Avery Bradley and Pierce added 13 points apiece.
Center Roy Hibbert had 12 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for the Pacers (38-23). David West added 11 points and 16 rebounds, and Hill had 14 points.
“Obviously a tough loss to swallow,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We have to give credit to Boston; they picked up their defense in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. We had some defensive breakdowns down the stretch. We have a good team, we just have to move on from it.”
The Pacers and Celtics could face each other in the first-round of the playoffs. The loss and a New York victory dropped the Pacers into the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Celtics are in seventh place, but they are just 1 1/2 games behind fourth place.
Boston is 2-0 against Indiana this season.
“I don’t think we had a good rhythm all night,” West said. “We were careless with the ball, and we didn’t make plays we were supposed to make.”
Pierce added, “Me and Kevin installed the DNA, we gave everybody a shot of it.”
The Celtics completed their comeback when Pierce set a back screen on West, and Garnett zipped a pass to a wide-open Green underneath the basket. That was the first time Boston held the lead since being up 13-10 with 7:15 left in the first quarter.
“It was a great play drawn up by Doc,” Vogel said. “They put David in a tough situation.”
The Pacers went an 8-0 run, all the points by Hill, to go up 81-72.
The Celtics scored the next seven points, including a 3-pointer from Pierce, to get back within two with 2:14 left in the game. Boston had a chance to tie, but Hibbert blocked Green’s shot. The Celtics finally tied the score at 81-81 when Garnett found Bradley wide open underneath for a layup.
“Part of the lesson you learn from an 82-game season is, when in the playoffs, you know you have to execute offensively down the stretch, and we didn’t do that well enough,” Vogel said. “You have to tip your hat to Boston’s defense.”
The Celtics held the Pacers to 36.4 percent shooting, including 22.2 percent on 3-pointers (6-for-27). Boston made 41 percent of its shots, including 41.2 percent from long range (7-for-17).
“We were half zone, half man, it was almost silly,” Rivers said about the Celtics’ defense, “but it was really good.”
NOTES: Pacers small forward Danny Granger is out at least a week with soreness in his left knee. An MRI done on Granger’s didn’t show any new damage. Granger missed the first 55 games of the season with problems to his knee. He averaged 5.4 points on 28.6 percent shooting in the five games he appeared in. “We want him to get back to 100 percent, and this is the best way to do that,” Vogel said. Rookie Orlando Johnson and veterans Sam Young will get Granger’s minutes on the wing. … The Celtics are 13-4 since All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury. … Hibbert has 14 double-doubles this season.