Jrue Holiday, left, who has been battling an ankle injury, will get a chance for a bit of extra rest after the Celtics lost to the Pacers and Tyrese Haliburton in the quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament on Monday in Indianapolis. Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The Celtics came back to Boston on Tuesday after being soundly beaten in crunch time by the Pacers in a 122-112 loss in the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament on Monday night.

There were some familiar areas of concern for Boston, which dropped the Celtics to 6-5 on the road this year. The Celtics surrendered a 9-0 run in crunch time because their defense suffered from miscommunication and the offense delivered uninspiring possessions.

Boston’s road offense (19th in the NBA) continues to be a problem as it stumbled late against one of the NBA’s worst defenses.

Nonetheless, the Celtics are still in a great position in the standings with an Eastern Conference-best 15-5 record, despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the league. The Celtics now have three days of rest before facing the loser of the Knicks-Bucks quarterfinal matchup on Friday night at TD Garden.

That consolation prize is quite the silver lining for the Celtics in the big picture on several fronts. Winning the In-Season Tournament would have made for a fun story and provided some eye-opening cash for the Boston bench and coaching staff. However, from a 10,000-foot view, bowing out in the quarterfinals may be a more appealing development for Boston’s long-term goals this season.

First, consider the schedule. With the loss, the Celtics will play just one game in the next seven days and five games in the next two weeks, all at TD Garden. After a brutal road schedule to begin the year, avoiding the trip to Las Vegas could do wonders for the Celtics from a rest perspective. Boston is already set for a four-game road trip in two weeks, which starts against the Warriors and ends against the Lakers on Christmas. Going back and forth across the country twice in three weeks would have been a tough ask for this group, particularly with the raised stakes of the In-Season Tournament.


An elimination from the In-Season Tournament also reduces the stakes for a couple of potentially hobbled veterans. Kristaps Porzingis is still working his way back from a strained calf and would certainly be itching to get back on the floor if Boston had advanced to the semifinals. Instead, he gets an added extra day of rest until the Celtics’ next game along with some lower stakes in that matchup. If Boston’s training staff wants to play it safe, it could give him three more days off after Friday since the Celtics won’t play again until Tuesday night against the Cavs.

There’s also the issue of Jrue Holiday, who came up hobbling in the final minute of Monday’s loss before being subbed out. The 34-year-old would have plenty of incentive to play through any lingering pain in Las Vegas. Now? The Celtics can play it safe with him, if needed, without any kind of financial remorse or added pressure to compete.

Any risk of complacency also can fade into the background in the wake of how the Celtics lost to a mediocre Pacers squad on the road. Tyrese Haliburton was great, but the Celtics struggled in a few key areas yet again in crunch time while also letting go of the rope on both ends in an ugly third quarter.

Boston has been an average team all year on the road and that was highlighted yet again in Indiana. Working through those issues at home in the next week while getting some added rest could pay dividends in the big picture.

A trip to Vegas may have been fun but this team has far more important goals this year. Avoiding an extra busy week in what will likely be a 100-plus game grind may end up helping more over the long haul than some extra cash in everyone’s pockets.

Indiana’s Aaron Nesmith celebrates during the second half of the Pacers’ 122-112 win over the Celtics on Monday in Indianapolis. Nesmith scored 14 points against the Celtics, who traded him to Indiana in 2022. Darron Cummings/Associated Press

MAKE NO MISTAKE, Haliburton stole the show for the Pacers on Monday night, it was also notable who exactly sent them packing. Beyond Haliburton, former Celtics wing Aaron Nesmith was arguably the second most valuable Pacer on the floor.


Nesmith scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, going 5 of 7 from the field to help fend off a Celtics’ rally and seal the victory. He shot 60 percent from the field in the game and also delivered gritty defense on the Celtics wings for the better part of his 30 minutes.

“We all really looked forward to this game especially with how we performed in Boston earlier this year,” Nesmith told Bally Sports after the win. “This game meant more to us, not only for the in-season tournament but for a little revenge game.”

The performance by Nesmith was just another example of the wing blossoming quite nicely in his new home in Indiana. Brad Stevens has hit home runs in several of his deals since taking over as Boston’s president of basketball operations but dealing away Nesmith while his stock was so low may sting a little bit.

Nesmith was sent to Indiana as part of the trade package where Boston landed Malcolm Brogdon last summer. The No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 draft has made quite a statement of late showing he was more than a throw-in for Brogdon, a deal which also included Daniel Theis, a 2023 first-round pick and salary filler.

While the Celtics moved on for Brogdon after one season as part of a blockbuster deal for Holiday, Nesmith looks like a valuable cost-controlled asset for the Pacers future. He signed a three-year, $33 million extension in October with Indiana and is putting together career-highs across the board, averaging 11 points per game and shooting 46 percent from 3-point range.

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