It was a tale of two halves for the Celtics. After playing what was probably their worst half of basketball all season in the first two frames, they responded with a 34-point third quarter to turn what was a laugher into an intense finish.
Man, that first half was bad. Boston barely shot above 20% from the field and allowed the Pacers to dictate the flow of the game and shoot nearly 60% from the floor. The Celtics fell behind by as many as 26 points, and just looked exhausted on the court against a fully energized Pacers team.
Victor Oladipo showcased the entire breadth of his all-star skill-set, especially forcing turnovers. He finished the night with 35 points and 5 steals and kept the Celtics from taking complete control of the game after their comeback.
Boston was disconnected on the defensive end, weren’t playing with a lot of purpose on offense, leading to over-dribbling and a lack of easy shots. It couldn’t get much worse in the first two quarters, so there was only one way to go but up in the second half.
The Celtics came out in the third quarter similar to how Indiana started the game, hitting their first six shots and cutting the Pacer lead to four points before the fourth quarter. Everything that wasn’t happening in the first half (Connection on defense, purpose on offense) came to light immediately in the third quarter.
Jaylen Brown was terrific on both ends of the court during the comeback forcing turnovers and attacking the rim. Brown is starting to realize how athletically superior he is to everyone else on the floor, and it’s very fun to watch. He finished with 16 points on 7-13 shooting.
Al Horford grabs a steal on the Indiana fast break and Jaylen Brown finishes on the other end! pic.twitter.com/P2TvvEZKHG— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 10, 2018
After outscoring the Pacers 34-17 in the third quarter and erasing their 21-point halftime edge, Boston kept the momentum to finally take the lead mid-way through the fourth. It was back-and-forth from there on. Both teams traded big shots from the likes of Al Horford and Oladipo down the stretch of the game.
In the final three minutes, the Pacers built another lead on the backs of Oladipo and Myles Turner to close out the Celtics for good. The Celtics had a string of questionable offensive possessions, taking a number of contested outside shots late in the game which allowed Indiana to pull away again. To sustain the run the Celtics made on the road and still come out on top is impressive for this Pacers team.
While Brown was probably the best player on the floor for the Celtics for most of the game, Jayson Tatum provided some excellent defense and some timely pull-up jumpers that can’t be overstated.
Greg Monroe had limited minutes in this one, scoring two points and going 0-3 from the field. He is still getting acclimated to the Celtics’ system so it will be interesting to see how Monroe progresses once Brad Stevens pinpoints exactly how he will use him going forward.
This game was the fifth time the Celtics have fallen behind to a team by 22 points or more, and have a record of 2-3 in those games. The fact that they even have close to a winning record in those contests is unprecedented.
The Celtics will try to get back in the win column on Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Cavaliers at 3:30 p.m. EST. Boston will get their first glimpse of the new-look Cavs on Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement day, so make sure to tune into that one.