Jayson Tatum led the way for the visitors with a game-high 38 points and 13 rebounds while Jaylen Brown chipped in with 31 points as the pair of All-Stars helped the Celtics outscore the Pacers 34-20 in the fourth quarter. Al Horford also flirted with a triple-double off the bench (10 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) filling in for an injured Kristaps Porzingis who left the game in the first quarter with an eye injury.
While Boston’s offense (51 percent) thrived yet again, the team’s defense may have been the more impressive part of the victory. The Celtics held the Pacers to just 40 percent shooting and a season-low 102 points, an impressive feat against one of the best offenses in the NBA. Benedict Mathurin had a team-high 20 points off the bench for Indiana in the loss.
The win was Boston’s second straight victory overall. The Celtics will go for three straight on Monday night in a rematch against the Pacers back at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Here are four takeaways from the Celtics win:
Celtics All-Stars combine for their best night of the year: The Pacers have no defensive answers for Boston’s wings and that mismatch was on full display on Saturday night. Tatum was red-hot all night from all over the floor, hitting a season-high eight 3s in Boston’s win while dishing out six assists. Meanwhile Brown shot a scorching hot 65 percent from the field while attempting 20 field goals to help the duo carry the scoring load for Boston’s starting five. While both players struggled at the free throw line (6-of-12 combined), they did almost anything they wanted in this one offensively otherwise, keeping a Pacers defense scrambling for much of the night.
Al Horford picks up the slack after Kristaps Porzingis eye injury: Old friend Aaron Nesmith got Porzingis with a shot to the left eye in the first quarter after the pair battled for a loose ball. Porzingis ultimately tried to play through what the team termed “left eye irritation” later in the first quarter but did not last more than two minutes before he left the game again and headed to the locker room. Porzingis attempted to warm up in the second half but did not play, posting just two points and three rebounds in his six minutes of action. His status for Monday’s rematch against the Pacers remains a question mark but Al Horford picked up the slack for his teammate, providing Boston with plenty of energy on both ends of the floor while dishing out a team-high eight assists to go with his 10 points.
Oshae Brissett makes an impact against his former team: The athletic forward hasn’t been able to crack Boston’s rotation for much of the year. However, he has seen consistent minutes for the past few games and brought an extra level of energy to the floor on Saturday night. Brissett struggled with his shot (3-of-9 FG) but snatched five of Boston’s 13 offensive rebounds which led to 17 second-chance points. He also added a block on Buddy Hield in the fourth quarter and his solid defense earned him some fourth-quarter minutes in crunch time as Derrick White battled foul trouble. Brissett finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes.
A defensive statement: One night after the Pacers put up 150 points on the Hawks, the Celtics showed Indiana what a real defense looked like. Boston benefitted from a rough shooting night for Indiana beyond the arc (8-of-42 from 3) but the visitors also played with far better physicality and focus than their last visit to Indiana in December. Tyree Haliburton couldn’t find a rhythm all night (5-of-17) and no Pacer player in the starting five shot over 50 percent from the field as Boston locked down their individual assignments and threw in a few wrinkles (zone defense) that kept Indiana off balance for much of the win.