After a demoralizing 0-3 road trip and a losers of seven of their last ten games, the Celtics came back to Boston needing a win. However, with their two All-Stars combining for 9-for-30 shooting against the Pacers, it didn’t look likely. After carrying the team for this most unusual season, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum looked gassed. Indiana jumped out to an 18-4 lead in the first quarter and the homecoming looked like some amalgamation of the Hawks hitting every three-pointer, the Celtics’ defensive effort in New Orleans, and that dread of discouragement in Dallas.
But then Boston dug deep.
“We stayed together. We didn’t put our heads down. We just kept building each other up,” Kemba Walker said after scoring a season high 32 points and dishing out six assists.
Without significant contributions from Tatum (4-for-18, 9 points) and Brown (5-for-12, 15 points), Brad Stevens found production from his young bench. The Celtics’ second unit outscored the Pacers’ 39-34 in large part due to Jeff Teague’s 14 points.
Teague has played sparingly over the last two weeks, collecting more DNP-CD’s than playing time. Instead of sulking or going rogue, the veteran point guard went back to work. He’s joined Aaron Nesmith in workouts before practice and games and become a bit of a mentor for the rookie and worked on being more aggressive as a scorer.
“I’m happy to see a lot of guys play well. We finally helped JT, Kemba, and Jaylen out tonight,” Jeff Teague said.
“I was really happy for Jeff,” Stevens said. “He hasn’t played the way he wanted to. He’s been putting in a lot of work.”
"I think Kemba helped will us to a win in a lot of ways"— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 27, 2021
Brad Stevens on the importance of the team sticking together through the tough times pic.twitter.com/yFLpTNinR5
The biggest revelation of the night was Robert Williams. It might be a little unfair to call it a revelation at this point. Williams has been steady through February, averaging 15 minutes a night and providing a vertical threat on both sides of the ball. He’s forced fans to forget all the internet memes and more importantly, forced his coaches to find ways to get him on the floor.
All that steady consistency seemed to culminate Friday night with Timelord stuffing the stat sheet with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and three blocks. In crunch time, Stevens opted to go with Williams (and Daniel Theis) instead of Tristan Thompson against Indiana’s two bigs, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
“It’s a big upside for me just knowing that they trust me and believe in me,” Williams said. “But most of all, it les me know that they need me in those situations and that boosts my confidence even more.”
He did snag the promotional Gatorade that the team has out during its post-game pressers, so the kid still has some areas of improvement.
Rob finishes his post-game presser: "Hey, can I take this?" pic.twitter.com/n1RCSirL00— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 27, 2021
To a man, the Celtics stressed “togetherness” during this recent losing stretch that ended with a hard fought 118-112 win over a Pacers team that they’re jockeying with in the Eastern Conference standings.
“This team is a great group. We believe...we just gotta continue to keep working,” Teague said. “I think the locker room is even getting even closer. It’s pretty amazing how the losses bring you closer (as a team) than the wins do.”
“When you go through the first part of the season that we’ve gone through where you’re treading water in a lot of ways, you have a better chance of your team ripping apart than staying together and galvanizing itself,” Stevens said. “That’s all we’ve talked about: just stay together. Our greatest legacy that we’ll leave no matter how many games we win is how we treat each other in these moments and how we stay together so that we can ultimately become who we want to be and that’s it.”