INDIANAPOLIS — About 75 minutes before Friday’s game with the Indiana Pacers, Celtics center Brandan Wright was called into Brad Stevens’s office. He had been traded to the Phoenix Suns.
The Celtics continued to prepare for the game, including Jeff Green.
Green returned to the locker room after a pregame workout and then jumped on his cellphone, learning that he was likely being dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies. Green had a team attendant order food and watched the game from the locker room.
So the Celtics, shorthanded and stunned, sleepwalked through the first three quarters offensively, staying close with defense. Then suddenly, the offense appeared and the Celtics sent the game into overtime with Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left in regulation.
The stirring rally was impressive but the Celtics missed some key shots down the stretch, including a potentially tying, wide-open 3-pointer from Kelly Olynyk in a 107-103 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Without Green, their leading scorer, the Celtics shot just 39.8 percent from the field for the second consecutive game but the defense scrapped and fought. Indiana shot 37 percent, including a combined 10 for 30 from David West and Roy Hibbert.
Evan Turner had a chance to put the Celtics ahead in overtime but his layup was blocked by Hibbert and Turner then missed a putback with 12.9 seconds left. C.J. Miles sank two free throws for a 3-point lead before Olynyk’s critical miss.
Still, Stevens, who looked weathered after a long day dealing with the changes, appeared pleased with the effort.
“They did a lot of good things,” he said. “I encouraged them. It’s a unique day. A tough day and we came out and battled even though we couldn’t make a shot through the first three quarters. We played with a lot of purpose, especially on the defensive end the last couple of games. It’s too bad we didn’t get that [win] because we had a chance to get it.”
About 50 minutes before tip-off, Green said he expected to play. He was listed as a starter, but he did not join his teammates on the court, with Jae Crowder taking his place in the lineup.
The Celtics played as if they were shorthanded, shooting 35.2 percent through the first three quarters and trailing, 65-60. They missed 17 of their first 20 3-point attempts, and the duo of Turner and Bradley were 5-for-22 shooting.
“It’s not a distraction at all, it’s part of the business,” said Bradley, one of Green’s closest friends on the team. “We’re all professionals and all we can do is focus on the game. That’s what we were all doing. We still don’t know what’s going on and all we can do is focus on Toronto [on Saturday].
“Off the court, they’re obviously my brothers, but all I can do is wish the best for them and focus on getting wins.”
The Celtics kept grinding, even after falling behind, 77-64, following Donald Sloan’s 3-pointer with 8:34 left in the fourth quarter. Boston responded with a 12-2 run, sparked by Bradley’s perimeter shooting and Marcus Smart’s defense.
After West’s free throws with 8.6 seconds left gave Indiana a 94-91 lead, Bradley responded with a 3-pointer from in front of the Celtics’ bench. Bradley scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime.
Boston missed 10 of 14 shots and five of six 3-pointers in overtime, ruining a chance for a rewarding victory.
“Our focus was on Indiana,” forward Jared Sullinger said. “We wish those two [Green and Wright] the best, especially Jeff for all the years he’s been here. Once you’re out there, you’re trying to win a basketball game, and even though the lid was on the basket, we went out there and played hard.”
Turner, who signed with the Celtics in the offseason and is now one of their more experienced players, said the team is still seeking consistency.
“Obviously that takes a lot as a unit,” he said. “[The situation] was pretty crazy. We just had to kick it out of our head. It was shocking. That’s never really happened in my career where somebody gets traded before the game. So I understood what was going on. Coach tried to talk to us and keep us focused.
“A guy like Jeff is definitely a tough loss. We’re still trying to get used to everybody and find the mojo amongst each other. So it was tough.”