INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers might be coming home for three games, but it won’t be easy.
The Pacers (6-3) will host the Boston Celtics (6-2) Saturday night, followed by games against Houston Monday and Philadelphia Wednesday. It certainly helps that the Pacers were able to pull out two games on the road, slipping past the New York Knicks 107-101 Wednesday and the Chicago Bulls 107-105 Friday night. This is second back-to-back of the season for the Pacers.
Victor Oladipo had his first double-double of the season with 25 points and 14 rebounds against the Bulls despite being sick for the second consecutive game.
“I’m not feeling well, but I don’t care, it’s time to win,” Oladipo told Fox Sports Indiana. “The game ball should go to the bench because we did a terrible job coming out strong. The bench lifted us and we finally got our groove late.”
The Pacers were down 37-22 after the first quarter. Darren Collison hit what proved to be the game-winner with 18.5 seconds left. Pacers center Myles Turner blocked Antonio Blakeney’s shot at the buzzer.
“We just made big plays,” Oladipo said. “DC is unbelievable. He fouled a guy on a three-point play (tying the game) but then came down and respond the way he did. That’s our resiliency. We got to continue to build on it. We got a tough one (Saturday) but we got to continue to do it together.”
Turner said the team has experience with coming back in games, leading the league in comebacks from more than 15 points behind last season.
“We have a group that never gives up,” Turner told Fox Sports Indiana. “It’s huge for the organization and city to let them know they have guys that are giving it all every night.”
Turner said it felt good to survive.
“I’m happy we got it done. It was a tough, gritty win,” Turner said. “I just wanted to come out and protect the rim.”
Pacers coach Nate McMillan said the Pacers played the first quarter in a fog.
“We thought we were still at the hotel in the first half, still asleep,” McMillan said. “They jumped on us. We stayed with it and started to get some stops. The second unit got us back in the game.”
A better start will be key against the red-hot Celtics.
The host Celtics sank team-record 24 3-pointers, one shy of tying the NBA record, in 117-113 victory over previously unbeaten Milwaukee on Thursday.
“We didn’t settle as much,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We still had some possession we’d like to have back, but I thought that we took what the defense gave us. We got to the second side of the floor and we found open shooters.”
With Jaylen Brown out with a foot injury, Semi Ojeleye, a 6-foot-7, 242-pound forward, was called upon to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Whether he starts or doesn’t play, he’s the first guy the next day or morning,” Stevens said. “He’s a really, really good teammate. And he was ready to be called upon against, which is, I think, one of the hardest things to when you’re a guy playing sporadically.”
Brown is listed as questionable for Saturday night’s game.
The Celtics will need inside help against the Pacers’ Turner and Domantas Sabonis, who hit all 12 of his shots against the Knicks. Against Chicago, Sabonis only made one of four shots, a rare off-night. However, Sabonis did hit 7 of 8 free throws against the Bulls.
“My teammates do a great job finding me,” Sabonis said of his 70.7 field-goal percentage for th season. “I just do my job, set a screen real hard, and try to finish.”