The good news – the Boston Celtics looked better offensively and were able to squeak out a 116-111 win against the Indiana Pacers. The bad news – they were still pretty bad defensively and have a lot of work to do on that end. The GREAT news? Payton Pritchard (FastPP) went lights out in the fourth quarter for Boston to spark the team. As support staff, Jayson Tatum came alive halfway through the game to finish with 27 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Malcom Brogdon (19 points and 7 assists) and Victor Oladipo (24-6-6) led the way for Indiana again, but pretty much every starter played great for the Pacers.
Boston got off to a good start this game. Jaylen Brown (20 points, 54% shooting) continued his improvement with intelligent pick-and-roll play and aggressive drives to the rim mixed in with strong shooting from deep. After missing the
ill-advised side-step 3-pointer at the end of Sunday night’s game, Tatum’s game was slow on arrival tonight. He had a lot of turnovers early, and he didn’t look comfortable driving to the hoop until late in the second quarter. He still managed to put together a solid game, finishing with 27 after coming alive in the fourth quarter.
Unlike Sunday, Brad Stevens went away from Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams (who got some second-half burn) in the first half, instead opting to go with Javonte Green, who was a spark plug off the bench. He made the right play on more than one occasion, and his energy definitely helped the offensive flow. This play came before Green checked in, but it illustrates how Boston’s offense took a step forward today and was refreshing to see:
That’s a welcome sight.
What’s not welcome is Boston’s defense. It’s still . . . not great. In the first half, Indiana shot an eFG% of 67%. That’s not good! Although Boston got off to a better start on that end, the second quarter was very leaky. A lot of shots came at the rim off of baseline cuts, and Indiana got their fair share of open looks from 3-point range. Indiana’s perimeter players ATE offensively. This demonstrates what Brad Stevens said pregame – outside of Marcus Smart (17 points and 5 assists), the Celtics aren’t doing a good job of containing the perimeter.
Boston still has a lot to work on in the early goings of the season, but there were plenty of positives to take away. Payton Pritchard continues to get better each game, and he’s demonstrated new skills every time out. He took on more of a playmaker role as Brad Stevens promised, and he did some really good things with the ball offensively.
The Celtics ran into the usual third quarter block, losing the frame 37-25. Whereas Boston’s defense was the major negative factor in the first half, it’s the turnovers on the offensive end coupled with bad defense that led to Boston facing a 17-point deficit in the third.
And then the fourth quarter happened! Payton Pritchard, renowned and feared offensive force, had a great start to the frame to cap off an overall excellent game (and start to the season). Boston actually decided to start playing defense, and they wiped out their deficit in mere moments behind a 11-0 run in 110 seconds. The whole team was energized by FastPP’s energy, and the defense that gave up 37 third quarter points held Indiana to 6 points in the first 8 minutes of the final quarter. That’s right, with 3:53 left in the game, the Pacers scored only 6 points in the fourth quarter.
Pritchard is ballin' tonight pic.twitter.com/ZhnlSmxVMl— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 30, 2020
Seriously, Payton Pritchard (10 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists) won this game for Boston. I can’t think of a more 2020 way thing to happen. He took over, the offense got crisper, the defense started caring, and Jayson Tatum started seeking contact at the rim. My conclusion is that the Celtics should start tomorrow night’s game with Pritchard-Smart-Brown-Tatum-Thompson. I’m . . . not kidding.
Boston got a little cute at the end, but a Jaylen Brown steal and score sealed it.
The 2-2 Celtics don’t get much time to rest with another game tomorrow night against the Memphis Grizzlies at 7:30 PM EST in Boston.