BOSTON -- Friday night's game at TD Garden between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers was billed as a playoff preview. For those on hand to watch it, though, it simply felt like a playoff game.

In the end, it was the Celtics who came away with the 114-112 victory, a win that could be summed up with one succinct thought -- one that could also prove to be the difference in their likely upcoming playoff series:

The Celtics have Kyrie Irving. The Pacers don't have Victor Oladipo.

Boston's closer, and Indiana's lack thereof, was ultimately what decided this one, as Irving's layup with 0.5 seconds left won the game for the Celtics, while the Pacers' inability to convert down the stretch robbed them of a chance to all but lock up home-court advantage when these two teams likely meet in the postseason.

"We know at the end of the game, Kyrie is going to have the ball in his hands, he's going to do what he do," Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said.

"We've just got to contain him a little bit better than we did."

That was the recurring lament from every member of the Pacers after this one -- and with good reason. With four seconds remaining, Irving found himself on the right wing, trapped between Pacers guard Wesley Matthews and center Myles Turner.

But just when it looked like Irving would either have to give up the ball or fire up a long, contested 3-pointer to try to win the game, Turner bolted back to his man -- opening up a lane to the rim that Irving happily took, laying the ball in with a half-second left to send the partisan sellout crowd into rapturous celebrations, and the Pacers to trudge back to their bench to draw up one final shot.

Why did Turner do that? Both he and Irving had their own take on what happened.

"I saw Myles Turner about to commit to the double-team," Irving said, "and then I just kind of gave a pass fake with my eyes and then went to the rim.

"Thankfully, it went in."

"When Kyrie had it on the sideline, my initial thought was to trap it," Turner told ESPN. "I saw him pick up the ball -- I'm not sure he carried it, obviously you're not going to call that at the end of the game -- but I saw him kind of pick up the ball, and with our defensive principles, once the ball is picked up, you have to get back to your man. But he kind of hesitated and got Wes on his back and had a decent drive.

"I'm going to be kicking myself about that for a little while, but you've got to move on. It is what it is."

Regardless of whether Irving's eye fake or his wizardry with the ball was the cause, all that matters now is that he managed to elude that double-team and get to the basket, which -- followed by Boston tipping away the ensuing inbounds pass to prevent Indiana from even getting off a game-winning shot -- ensured the Celtics came away from this game with a desperately-needed victory.

Sure, the Celtics will be favored to beat the Oladipo-less Pacers whether they are the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But Friday's game was more than enough proof that winning that series will be no easy task -- one that will be made that much harder if the Celtics have to begin away from home.

Still, this was the kind of performance -- from an effort standpoint -- that has been lacking so often from the Celtics this season. There were multiple times where bodies were strewn across the court chasing after a loose ball as if it was a scramble for a fumble on a football field. There was pugnacious defense, led by Marcus Smart, from the opening tip.

There was also a lineup change -- with Aron Baynes replacing Marcus Morris in the starting lineup for the second straight game, and with Boston going away from the same starting unit (Irving, Smart, Jayson Tatum, Morris and Al Horford) it had used whenever it had all five available since late November. And, given who the opponent was, that lineup appears here to stay.

Whether the Celtics can consistently produce this kind of effort over the next few weeks, though -- after failing to do so all year long -- remains to be seen.

"We'll find out," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "I thought we played harder, with more purpose than we have.

"But, at the end of the day, if we're going to beat these guys in more than just a regular-season game at home, you're going to have to get them off the glass, and you better get those loose balls that we didn't get late.

"That's why they are who they are. I think they're really good."

The Pacers have earned plaudits from around the league for how they have survived in the wake of losing Oladipo to a season-ending ruptured right quad tendon in January. But Indiana's lack of a closer was clearly on display against the Celtics, as the ball too often was left in point guard Darren Collison's hands to try to make a play -- or, more often than not, take a shot with the shot clock running down.

Had Oladipo been the one with the ball in those situations, like he was last year, perhaps this game plays out differently. Of course, had Young made a wide-open layup with 43 seconds to go, or had Turner simply not left Irving when he was trapped on the wing, perhaps this game would have played out differently, too.

"We did not get breaks tonight," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. "[But] you have to make those breaks."

That is precisely why the Celtics have Kyrie Irving -- to be the difference-maker in those moments, and to create those breaks any team needs to win games at the highest level, against the best opponents.

That was the difference between these two teams Friday night. It also could be the difference between them in the postseason.