The Boston Celtics held off the Indiana Pacers' fourth-quarter rally to secure a 114-111 win and clinch their spot in the post-season.
It's the sixth-straight season the Celtics have made the playoffs and the 12th time in the past 13 years. With the win, the Celtics improve to 43-21 on the season, three games back of the second-seed Toronto Raptors.
All five starters scored in double figures on the night, with Jayson Tatum again leading the charge with 30 points, six rebounds, and four steals - his ninth 30+ point outing in his past 14 games. Tatum also tied Larry Bird's record with five-straight 30-point games on the road.
Gordon Hayward added 27 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, while Daniel Theis recorded 20 points, Marcus Smart 16 and Kemba Walker 11.
The Celtics led by as many as 19 points and were in front by 16 with less than seven minutes to go, before T.J. Warren's and-1 kick-started a 21-2 run to put the Pacers up 107-104 with 2:15 remaining.
Victor Oladipo came to life down the stretch, scoring 10 points in the run and 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter.
With the game in the balance, Theis buried a clutch three-pointer with 1:43 remaining, kick-starting a 10-4 run to close the game.
big 👌 pic.twitter.com/C5bVj9CUfm- Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 11, 2020
Marcus Smart gave them the lead for good at 111-109 with 49.7 seconds left, converting a tough finish in the paint over Domantas Sabonis and drained a pair of free throws with seven seconds left to put the Celtics up three.
Tonight's @jetblue Play of the Game goes to none other than @smart_MS3 for making plays when it counts 😤 pic.twitter.com/rVbmE3dlTE- Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 11, 2020
The Pacers had a chance to tie the game, but Justin Holiday's three-point attempt was off, with Smart corraling the rebound.
"It's getting close to that time where you're going to have to win games like this," Smart said post-game. "So tonight was a good win and it couldn't have come at a better time, especially with the week we've been having."
"It couldn't have came at a better time, especially with the week we've been having." Smart talks about the #Celtics win over the Pacers on Tuesday night- Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 11, 2020
(presented by https://t.co/Av8GdCAzPA) pic.twitter.com/q1mQwXIEFD
"I think we probably needed it," said head coach Brad Stevens, who has guided the Celtics to the post-season in six of his seven seasons at the helm.
"We probably need to have something like that happen, go down three and find a way to win. It's probably a good thing for our team in the long run. I mean, it's like we've got to get better in the middle of quarter and we've got to get better at the end of quarters. But we probably needed that. That was hard. That's a good thing.
"We've been really good for the most part. We had a couple of blunders early in the year, but, like, we'll be good in the fourth quarters and playing the right way, and for whatever reason we just haven't been as good lately. We've let some leads slip away.
"Part of that is the NBA. Part of it is we've got to just be a little bit better. Part of it is, you know, sometimes you're not full. That's part of it. I was glad that we found a way. Theis' shot was huge."
The Pacers (39-26), who currently sit in the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, were led by Domantas Sabonis' 28 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists, while Oladipo finished with 27 points and T.J. Warren 22.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.