Mike DePrisco: The Pacers controlled the pace of the game in the first half. The Celtics weren’t playing on their terms, and the defense looked really bad against an Indiana team without Victor Oladipo.
The third quarter changed the game when the Celtics picked up the aggressiveness on defense and forced 20 turnovers in the game. Boston fed off of their defense and moved the ball with more purpose to generate open looks for Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, while Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart combined for 32 points with Brown and Morris out.
It was good to see the Celtics respond to early adversity on the second night of a back-to-back while short handed. Tonight’s third quarter was a display of a better team turning it on to put away an inferior team on the road.
Bill Sy: On Friday night, Boston shot a blistering 50.7% through the first three quarters against Orlando, and the offense looked to be on the upswing. They started cold at Bankers Life Fieldhouse but finished strong after a game-altering timeout.
The Celtics were down nine points at halftime and traded buckets with the Pacers to start the third. It was an 8-point game until a 30-10 run to end the quarter would give them the lead for good.
Over their last five games, they’ve averaged a 112.1 OffRtg; that would put them in the stratospheric range of the Warriors and Rockets. Paired with their historically good defense, this could be a team that could contend for a championship in the playoffs. What made last night’s performance promising was that it came without Jaylen Brown (personal) and Marcus Morris (rest) on the second night of a back-to-back on the road.
This wasn’t Kyrie Irving or Al Horford going off, although both had solid games. This wasn’t prized young players stepping up, although Marcus Smart had one of his best games of the season. This was trusting the game plan and doing little things to help your teammates succeed, particularly in terms of ball movement and players moving without the ball.
It’s such a subtle motion, but watch Smart cut through the lane before Horford delivers the ball to Jayson Tatum. Because Bojan Bogdanovich overplays the passing lane, Smart cuts through the lane and engages Myles Turner to check him. Aron Baynes immediately hits Lance Stephenson with a screen, and Turner can’t recover quick enough to challenge Tatum’s mid-range shot.
Similar off-ball concept here with Daniel Theis. Smart clears the ball side and takes Bogdanovic with him to the perimeter. Theis sets up a flare screen in an attempt to free up Tatum in the corner pocket, and with his defender, Domantas Sabonis, zoned in on Horford in the post, there’s a clear cutting lane for Theis for the and-1. This is just another perfect example of Brad Stevens using sight lines and multiple actions to confuse defenders and give his offense multiple options.
Again, it’s Horford in the post. He’s drawing the attention of multiple defenders, and all it takes is another flare screen from Theis to free up the hot Terry Rozier for an uncontested three pointer. There’s been some chatter that the Celtics haven’t moved the ball as much this season, and that maybe that’s led to a slow start for their offense. Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen a bigger commitment to player movement (in lieu of ball movement) and putting the ball in Boston’s best decision-makers: Al Horford and Kyrie Irving.
Romy Nehme: Rozier had been in a shooting slump for a large part of the Celtics’ winning streak. And what’s unfortunate, is that a lot of his woes were coming finishing at the rim -- an area he **specifically** worked on this off season. He has this bad habit of contorting his body one too many times and often leaning away from the basket until he’s lost his athletic advantage, and there’s no daylight to speak of for him to squeeze the ball through the defensive limbs towering above him (Rozier has had 14 shots blocked this season). Despite his anemic shooting percentages, he has that odd Marcus Smart quality of showing up when it matters, so he kept at it. Until the faucet finally got unclogged against Orlando.
Brad Stevens, ever the process guy, never stopped believing in Rozier’s shot (after he finally erupted for a career high 23 points).
#Celtics Brad Stevens: Terry Rozier is a really good shooter. He's made some big ones ... He's too good of a shooter to shoot a low percentage.— Scott Souza (@Scott_Souza) November 25, 2017
What’s been really encouraging about the last two games is that Rozier has done his damage from literally all over the court. He’s done it in rhythm, with catch and shoot 3s, with that trademark pull up J of his, and, yes, at the rim -- from the left side, the right, above the break.
His numbers are creeping back to the decency threshold; in fact, he’s now shooting a career high .381 and just slightly above league average .365 from 3. Things are looking up.
Getty Rozier going could help stabilize the bench and give it the go-to scoring punch it’s been searching for. I’ve been a card carrying member of the Rozier club since Day 1, and for a guy who’s looked like he belonged since the first day he stepped onto the court, performances like these will beget even more confidence.