NBA: Celtics paste Pacers in key battle for 4th in East

Reuters

Posted at Apr 06 2019 01:03 PM

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (20) goes up for a shot against Indiana Pacers guard Tyreke Evans (12) during the third quarter of their match at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Jayson Tatum scored 22 points and Gordon Hayward added 21 as the Boston Celtics took over sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 117-97 victory Friday over the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

The result puts Boston on track for home-court advantage in the upcoming NBA playoffs.

Kyrie Irving scored 17 points for the Celtics (48-32), who broke a fourth-place tie with the Pacers, doing it on the road, where they have held their ups and downs. Boston is now 20-20 away from home this season.

Hayward was 9 of 9 from the field and 3 of 3 from the free-throw line, while Aron Baynes had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics.

Myles Turner scored 15 points for the Pacers, who are having their troubles down the stretch, losing eight of their past 11 games. Indiana (47-33) entered Friday's game after consecutive victories over the Detroit Pistons.

While the fourth-place Celtics and fifth-place Pacers are in line to meet each other when the playoffs begin next weekend, Boston did move 1 and a half games behind the third-place Philadelphia 76ers with games remaining at home against the Orlando Magic on Sunday and at the Washington Wizards on Tuesday to close out the regular season.

The Pacers conclude their schedule with a game at home against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday and a visit to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

The Celtics started slowly, trailing 27-24 after one quarter as Indiana worked the ball inside, scoring 16 points in the paint. Boston neutralized the Pacers' inside game by speeding up the tempo, scoring 34 points in the second quarter to take a 58-47 lead into halftime.

Boston remained on the attack in the third quarter, increasing the advantage to as many as 18 points before taking a 91-74 lead into the final quarter by shooting 55.4 percent from the field.

The Celtics effectively put the game away three minutes into the fourth quarter when they turned a pair of Pacers turnovers into back-to-back fastbreak dunks by Tatum for a 102-80 lead.

Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who entered scoring 21.5 points per game since All-Star Victor Oladipo was lost for the season in January, scored just four points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field. Domantas Sabonis and Tyreke Evans scored 12 points each for Indiana.

The Pacers were playing without point guard Darren Collison (groin), while the Celtics lost guard Terry Rozier after just six minutes on the floor because of illness.

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