Ime Udoka asked for a calming force to help the Celtics get through rough patches where the offense spirals against opposing runs last week. It wasn’t a sustainable answer, and Indiana’s offense didn’t exactly do much to pressure Boston after they took a 10-point first half lead, but it emerged in Robert Williams’ offensive rebounds and put backs.
That answer disappeared in the second half after the Pacers adjusted. Domantas Sabonis took over the flow of the game, alongside Torrey Craig and Lance Stephenson, launching the Pacers back into the game on a 15-7 second half run with pass and precise passing from the low block. With Marcus Smart (thigh) out, and the offense stagnating through Jayson Tatum and Dennis Schröder, Boston found another answer. Brown and spacing in the late lineup.
It worked for Tatum and Richardson to keep the Celtics ahead against Indiana’s charge, going downhill toward the basket. Then Stephenson turned back the clock with a pull-up three and Brown’s responding three clipped the basket, allowing Stephenson to lead Oshae Brissett on the run for a three-point dunk over Tatum. The Pacers led by two and, like at MSG last week, Tatum hit a tough pull-up two to tie it short of the buzzer. This time without RJ Barrett in the house to spoil it.
Brown led Boston in overtime the same way, attacking he cup for two early makes, before trusting some triangular ball movement in the right corner. He fed Richardson, who got him the ball back in the lane, then Brown hit Grant Williams for three. Ball game: 101-98.
The Celtics’ season has seemingly turned toward Brown’s on-ball development following an up-and-down passing stretch following his return from hamstring injury that peaked with 11 assists against the Knicks. He poured in six more points on 3-of-6 shooting to start Monday’s game against the severely short-handed Pacers, using a shot off glass to get started around Williams III, then finding him for an alley-oop. Brown later tried the Hakeem Olajuwon, or maybe more fittingly here the Kevin McHale, unsuccessfully.
Wild rebound from Rob & low post Hakeem impression from Jaylen pic.twitter.com/U1L5klvGGP— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) January 11, 2022
It was a funny moment with the Celtics rolling, until it spun into more offensive stagnancy. Tatum shot 7-for-21 in the win, with one assist and eight turnovers.
The Pacers started the game 29.2% from the field, going down 23-17 after one, but taking advantage of Boston’s early sloppy turnovers to find spot points from Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb. Indiana’s starters made two buckets in 14 minutes through an 0-for-5 start for Domantas Sabonis. Enes Freedom stepped in late in the first quarter to hold him away from the bucket inside on three consecutive possessions before sending Tatum out in transition for his lone bucket through a 1-for-4 start.
Then, Smart lost control of the ball on the drive one play, took an ill-advised fadeaway on another and the Pacers started showing Tatum two on the ball. He got stopped by Sabonis inside and frustratingly fouled him, before losing control driving into a crowd and trying to dump to Sabonis. Udoka tried to save a possession where Grant dove to the floor and saved his steal from rolling out of bounds, but it only led to a misplaced Josh Richardson baby hook in the lane.
Williams III tried to track those botched attempts through an 8-for-22 second quarter, slamming back a third-chance Smart try in the lane after grabbing his first miss and kicking it out. He couldn’t stop the turnovers though, Richardson throwing a pass to Keifer Sykes pointed in transition and able to get a pass right to Jeremy Lamb, who powered Indiana’s offense with a 4-for-6 start.
Brown, Smart and Tatum turned the ball over seven times in the first half, feeding extra possessions to a largely stagnant Indiana offense. As a Smart, Richardson, Brown, Grant and Al Horford lineup stagnated midway through the second half, Myles Turner and Sykes overcame the deficit and tied the game at 32. Smart answered with a bailout and-one turnaround in the lane and long three on a kick out from Richardson. A pair of Duane Washington Jr. jumpers pushed Indiana within one before halftime, then Rob threw down a slam following Brown’s miss.
The Celtics led 42-39 after two, but with Brown lining up Holiday obsessively at one point in the first half just to miss a long jumper. Schröder called off Tatum early in the frame and launched a three. It was one of Boston’s worst offensive quarters all season after all the progress of Saturday, and the night got worse.
Brown charged into the second half with a turnaround and put back finish. Smart turned the ball over posting-up allowing a Sykes three the other way, then grabbed a steal from Holiday and ran it home for a dunk. Sykes kept the pressure on with back-to-back jumpers, as Smart turned the ball over two more times fouling Sykes on a post-up and throwing a pass away to Washington Jr.
Boston flashed life with back-to-back breakouts from Brown to find Horford for three and Tatum for a layup following a Horford steal. Smart banged into Sabonis and fell over on the stop, heading to the locker room with a thigh contusion shortly after the timeout that followed. Williams III grabbed Stephenson’s pass to Turner on the following possession, running ahead and drawing a clear path foul. He hit both free throws and Tatum split a pair on the following possession, grabbing back the Celtics’ 10-point lead.
More spiraling followed that not even Rob could save. Tatum launched a three and threw a pass away to Lamb on the follow. Schröder missed two free throws next time down, then Grant and Tatum missed two more jumpers. Sabonis found Craig after grabbing a Lamb miss for a cutting layup. Stephenson scored one from Craig, then Brown fell on the following defensive possession trying to help on Sabonis in the lane, freeing Craig in the right corner for three.
Brown scored a layup the other way and forced a Pacers timeout up seven, clapping his hands at Grant the whole way to the huddle before Williams III grabbed Williams and Schröder slowly moved Brown away from Grant. Schröder and Brown pushed into the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run.
Jaylen Brown NOT HAPPY with Grant into timeout. pic.twitter.com/GKrbFiiuyA— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) January 11, 2022
Craig and Stephenson hit threes back-to-back to lead the Pacers on an 8-0 comeback of their own in response. Then Stephenson, on a 10-day with his Pacers squad from the early 2010s, plowed into Schröder on the drive with his elbow and earned a flagrant. Schröder hit both, but Brissett hit a three and Sabonis split a pair of free throws to draw within one.
Sabonis found two more assists to hand Indiana a lead, Craig in the corner for three from the post in traffic. Then Craig cutting for a slam over Richardson. Brown tied the game at 81-81 from three after Brissett blocked a Tatum three and Schröder botched a layup inside.
Tatum handed the Celtics a lead, navigating through traffic to the rim, that the Pacers took right back on a Stephenson pull-up three. Brown missed a pull-up three trying to respond, and Brissett did, smashing a dunk over Tatum in transition.
Brown worked a tough set from Tatum on a drive-and-kick into Rob, who hit two free throws. Then, after Stephenson missed an icing shot, Tatum drove the length of the floor and tried to find Grant back door on a pass that got deflected by Holiday. Udoka, in an adjustment, courted Richardson, Brown, Tatum, Grant and Rob late. Tatum, catching the in-bounds, turned and tied it as the Garden erupted.
Brown scored twice in overtime, setting up the decisive Grant corner three, before leading Tatum downhill for two to solidify the lead. Tatum converted his free throws after a near-disastrous Richardson three-point foul on Holiday, Indiana running out of timeouts down by three.
The Celtics travel to Indiana for a rematch with the Pacers next, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics’ revenge over the Knicks, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss Jaylen Brown’s first triple-double and Robert Williams’ dominating performance.