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Kemba Walker and role players step up in victory: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Pacers

Kemba Walker scored 32 points and Boston’s bench was terrific in snapping a losing streak

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Celtics got off to an incredibly slow start. Boston fell behind 12-0 after a Daniel Theis jumper was ruled to have come after the shot clock had expired. The first official basket for the Celtics didn’t come until Jaylen Brown hit a pullup with 9:34 left in the first quarter. It had the feeling of “here we go again!”.

Unlike in the Atlanta game, and some other games recently, Boston didn’t completely unravel. Following the victory, Brad Stevens, Robert Williams, Jeff Teague and Kemba Walker all talked about how the team stayed together. It was clearly a point of emphasis that wherever the Celtics are headed, they are headed there as a group.

2. Brad Stevens credited Kemba Walker’s early play as giving Boston “a will to win”. Walker got the Celtics in the game with 10 first quarter points, but he was plenty good after that too. Walker finished with 32 points and six assists in his best performance of the season.

One thing Boston did was getting Walker working against bigs on switches. Here Walker gets downhill off a screen against Myles Turner. He uses a hesitation dribble to open up the pullup jumper:

The early work by Walker opened up things late in the game. Once again, Walker draws Turner. This time he backs the NBA’s leading shot-blocker out behind the arc. Then, Walker uses his speed to get by Turner, before using his body to protect the shot:

On the game’s biggest play, because Walker has had success against Turner all game, the Pacers end up scrambled. Justin Holiday won’t straight switch this screen and leave Turner on an island again. That leaves Indiana out of position and Walker finds Daniel Theis for the wide-open corner three:

3. Robert Williams is must-watch TV whenever he’s on the court. You really never know what you are going to get. Why the rush to make this outlet so quickly?

The good thing? Boston is letting Williams play through the bad moments now. The better thing? They are becoming fewer and fewer. The best thing? He does stuff like this ridiculous anticipation:

The best, best thing? The relocation for the original shot, then the strong offensive rebound and patient finish:

The best, best, best thing? Rob throws lobs now?

The bestest of best things? Williams played crunch-time minutes. He said that belief his coaches and teammates have in him gives him tremendous confidence.

It doesn’t matter if Williams starts or not. It’s probably best that he doesn’t, because it allows for better control of his minutes and he won’t get in foul trouble as easily. But he’s earned the right to be in the mix to close games with his play.

4. The Celtics did a great job getting back in the game by doing something they rarely do: they got to the free throw line. For the game, Boston was 25-of-29 from the charity stripe. As they made the comeback in the first quarter, the Celtics went 11-of-14 at the line. That’s stealing offense in the best way possible.

5. Part of that comeback and getting to the line was Jeff Teague. Teague said that after a string of DNPs that he “wanted to be aggressive and let the chips fall where they may”. Mission accomplished. And he did more than just draw free throws. This floater is the type of shot we expected to see Teague drop in all season:

And then, when his feet are set, Teague remains a good three-pointer shooter. Bonus: great extra pass from Robert Williams!

6. The extra pass above was a good example of Boston’s ball movement all night. The Celtics had 24 assists on 42 baskets, which seems a little low for how well they moved. Four different Celtics had at least four assists: Walker had six, Jaylen Brown had five, Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams each had four.

For the first time in a while, it looked like Celtics basketball again.

7. Jayson Tatum had a rough shooting game at 4-of-18. The good news is that those shots came in the flow of the game. There wasn’t a lot of pounding-the-dribble isolation ball. And Tatum got some work done as a playmaker. This is a nice spot for a lob vs a forced floater:

This no-look pass to Payton Pritchard was gorgeous:

8. Speaking of Payton Pritchard, it was a productive night for the rookie. He scored nine points and came up with three offensive rebounds. Pritchard’s nose for the ball is really impressive. He’s not afraid to do the dirty work and it results in plays like this:

9. Overall, it was a great night for Boston’s bench. Robert Williams stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal. Jeff Teague scored 14 points, including 7-of-8 from the free throw line. We mentioned Pritchard above, and Aaron Nesmith and Javonte Green both looked good in short stints. Along with some good play from Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson, it was a great night for the Celtics role players.

10. Following the game, Brad Stevens said “I’m just happy to get a win on a day that ends in Y”, and that was a pretty spot-on assessment. Boston needed a victory. They have three more home games left before the All-Star break. They host the Washington Wizards (playing really well as of late), the LA Clippers (healthy again) and the Toronto Raptors (always a tough game). If the Celtics can get wins in two-of-three in that stretch, they’ll hit the break at .500. Here’s betting they are looking for more and may hit the break a couple games over even and on a four-game win streak.

In this roller coaster season, we have no reason to trust that will happen, but Boston is due for a good run. It has to start somewhere, and beating the Pacers might have been that start.

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