Boston was already without the services of All-Star center Al Horford (illness) and shooting guard Jaylen Brown due to his concussion sustained earlier this week in a scary fall against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Celtics, who led by as many as 12 points and headed into halftime with a 50-40 lead over the Pacers, simply could not keep up in the second half during Irving's absence and fell 99-97 at home. But a Myles Turner layup followed by a pair of free throws by Oladipo gave IN a 99-95 lead with 10.4 seconds to play-which is when things almost got interesting.
During an appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub last week, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suggested that knee soreness might be something that Irving might have to "manage the rest of his career".
IN came out firing in the third quarter.
"That's what we expect".
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"I think that would probably be the best thing", Irving allowed after the game. "Next-man-up mentality and just trying to do everything possible to put ourselves in a position to win. I thought they battled really hard today".
Tatum scored 19 points and Rozier had 16 points and six rebounds. Oladipo led the team with just seven points at the break.
"Hats off to our young guys", Stevens said. "We got the stop at the end, but we have to continue to grow". "I think right now that would probably be the best thing instead of kind of hoping it gets better over two three days, which it usually does". The reality is we still have 15 games left, still have one-sixth of the season left.
"If he doesn't feel 100 percent, then we need to have him sit, and so I think that that is something that we've all talked about, and [that's] why he didn't come back in [against Indiana]", Stevens said.
"Obviously, it was a tough situation for our team", said the Celtics coach. "It's aching a little bit more than I wanted it to now, so I'm taking the necessary time". "It is a pretty resilient group we got, pretty cool". "He was getting it worked on after halftime". While the team does trail Toronto by 3.5 games after losing to Indiana Sunday night, the Celtics have the second-best record in the East and lead the Pacers by seven games. "He said offensive foul", Oladipo said.