Kelly Olynyk stood against a wall in the middle of the locker room, looking more like he just left a boxing ring than a basketball court.
With his left eye bruised and nearly shut with four stitches from an injury sustained hours before tip-off, Olynyk scored 19 points as the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 100-87 Wednesday night in a matchup of Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls.
Before the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens thought Olynyk would have to sit out after taking an elbow to the eye from teammate Shavlik Randolph while playing 1-on-1.
"When I first did it, I went in there and they told me I won’t be playing," Olynyk said. "Then when I went in to see the doctor, they wanted to dilate my eye, but your vision would be blurry. I told them not to because I wanted to play. They sewed it up. I came back and wanted to give it a try."
Olynyk came out to the court a few minutes after his teammates were in the layup line, tossed his warmups on the bench and ran over to join in. He played nearly 22 minutes and nailed seven of 10 shots. His 3-pointer made it 94-78 with 3:52 to play.
"He felt OK," Stevens said afterward. "It was more of a vision thing; how well could he see? He was saying he could see pretty well and the doctors felt pretty good about him playing. They stitched him up. I think it looked a little worse than it felt. I think that’s an obvious statement."
Tyler Zeller scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half and Evan Turner finished with 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds for Boston, which is a half-game out of a playoff spot. The Celtics sit just behind Brooklyn and Miami, who are tied for seventh place in the East.
The top eight teams reach the postseason.
George Hill had 21 points and Rodney Stuckey scored 16 for the Pacers, who lost for the ninth time in 11 games and fell two games behind Boston.
After losing in Brooklyn a night earlier, the Pacers know their playoff chances are slipping away.
"It’s very frustrating," Hill said. "Everything is on the line and we’re just blowing it away and giving it away."
The Celtics saw their 18-point lead cut to six twice in the final quarter, but took control with a 10-3 spurt to make it 87-74 with just under six minutes to play. Jae Crowder started the run with two free throws and capped it with a breakaway dunk.
"They beat us in transition too many times. Their style of play won out," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
Leading by 11 at halftime, Boston used a 9-2 run at the start of the second half to open a 59-41 edge before the Pacers started pounding the ball inside to Roy Hibbert during a run that helped them slice it to 68-62 after three.
The Celtics outscored the Pacers 9-2 over the final 2 minutes of the first half en route to a 50-39 edge at the break.
Pacers: Vogel said Stuckey and C.J. Miles were both "pretty banged up," but they both saw action. Stuckey played 19 minutes and Miles scored 12 points in 29 minutes. Miles played just 6:23 in the previous game.
Celtics: Marcus Smart came down hard on his back in the fourth quarter while fighting for a rebound, but stayed in the game. … Stevens wasn’t about to fuel rumors that he could be on a list of names for the coaching vacancy at Texas. "I’ll be in Boston," he said.
YOU KNOW WHO HE IS
Vogel talked about the organization wanting to make the playoffs and didn’t need to mention his boss’ name before the game.
"It would mean a lot. It’s very important to our organization to try to get into the playoffs," he said. "We’re all about winning. My boss is all about winning, as you all know very well. It’s been a tough year."
Vogel’s boss is team president Larry Bird, who played his entire Hall of Fame career with the Celtics.
Olynyk said Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton, sidelined with what the team is calling an "upper-body injury," provided motivation to play.
"He told me he broke his ribs and he’s trying to come back before the playoffs," Olynyk said. "I was like, `I can’t sit out, he’s gonna rip me.’ All those hockey guys would have killed me, so I had to do it."