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Celtics hold off scrappy Pacers 109-102

Boston picks up road win in Indiana

NBA: Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics used some rarely seen lineup combinations to spark the team after a sluggish start, and then Isaiah Thomas took over to close the game in a road win at Indiana. Thomas led the way for the Celtics with 28 points and 9 assists and, as has become his MO, made several big plays down the stretch.

With the offense struggling at the end of the first quarter, Brad Stevens turned to a lineup of Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. That group had the potential to be offensively challenged, but the players were aggressive on both ends. They hit the floor repeatedly for loose balls and attacked the rim on offense. By the time the starting unit returned to the floor, the Celtics had turned a deficit into a lead.

At the half, the Celtics had forced 12 turnovers and had held the Pacers to just 33% shooting, including only 1 of 9 from behind the arc. Boston also took advantage of an Indiana defense that allows the most three-point attempts per game in the league by launching 26 triples, making eight, in the first half.

In the third quarter, the Celtics built a lead as large as 17 and seemed like they had Indiana on the ropes early in the fourth. On back-to-back possessions, Olynyk found Smart and Brown for layups with pretty passes from the high post. Just as it seemed like the Pacers were about to break, the Celtics got sloppy and blew consecutive fastbreaks where Terry Rozier threw poor lob passes to Brown. Combine the sloppy offense with early fouls and the Pacers managed to work their way back in the game.

Late in the fourth the Celtics signatures of offensive execution and defensive excellence took back over. Bradley, Smart and Crowder locked in and made enough stops to keep the Pacers at bay. And Thomas and Horford worked the pick and roll to perfection as Thomas got score after score to bring home the win.

Five other Celtics besides Thomas reached double figures, with Crowder, Bradley, Smart, Olynyk and Amir Johnson scoring between 11 and 15 points. Al Horford had a big night on the boards with 11 rebounds to offset an off night shooting the ball, as he went just 3 of 12 from the floor.

Jeff Teague continued his history of strong play vs. Boston by scoring 31 points and handing out 8 assists. Paul George also added 19 points for Indiana, but shot just 5 of 16 from the field. C.J. Miles came alive late and scored 19 off the Pacers bench.

The Celtics now lead the season series over the Pacers 2-0 with both wins coming in Indiana. They close out the series in late March in Boston.

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