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Balanced effort leads to a win streak: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Pacers

Boston has won three in a row to climb back to .500 on the season

Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

1. Jayson Tatum had it going early for the Boston Celtics against the Indiana Pacers. In the game’s opening seven minutes, Tatum had 14 points and two assists. Good things seem to happen when Tatum works out of post-ups. This is a nice read and also a solid screen by Al Horford to open up Jaylen Brown for the three:

When Tatum is feeling good, there’s no hesitation with his jumper. Caris LeVert is on this shot, but it doesn’t matter as Tatum goes straight rise-and-fire here:

This is a nice play for a couple of reasons. Tatum comes off the screen, but Myles Turner is right there to deny the look, so Tatum passes off to Dennis Schroder. Schroder knows Tatum has it going, so he doesn’t delay in getting it right back to Tatum. That results in the one-dribble pullup triple:

2. While Jayson Tatum opened the game with the scoring binge, Jaylen Brown carried the load in the middle of the game. Brown has just enough of a size advantage over most guards that he can get to shots like this whenever his handle is tight enough:

Postgame, Ime Udoka talked about Boston “finishing stops and holding Indiana to one shot” and how that created transition opportunities for the Celtics. Brown corrals this rebound and he’s off the other way. Domantas Sabonis is a very good player, but he has no chance against Brown in space. Look at the shot-clock as the ball drops through. Five seconds from rebound to shot. This is good stuff:

3. Jayson Tatum took back over late to more or less close out the Pacers. This is another example of playing with pace. Dennis Schroder gets it up the floor and kicks to Tatum. Tatum doesn’t mess around with one of his hundred-dribble moves. He’s off the rim right off the catch. Again, look at the shot-clock: 17 seconds as the layup is completed. Also again, this is a good stuff:

The Pacers never really threatened in the fourth quarter, because Tatum kept making plays. This is a good read of the defense. Tatum knows the big is coming on the double. Instead of playing into the trap, Tatum spins into the fallaway:

This was as close to a fully-realized Jayson Tatum as we’ve seen this season. He had 33 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. It was a dominant performance on both ends of the floor.

4. At the end of the first half, things started to unravel for the Celtics. After the vistors took a 14-point lead with five minutes to play in the second quarter, Indiana outscored Boston 12-3. No one could blame Celtics fans for saying, “Here we go again.”

It was all the typical culprits too. Sloppy offense leading to bad shots. Lazy defense leading to great looks for the Pacers. Poor rebounding letting Indiana get second-chance points. It looked like everything was going to pieces once again.

5. Then…it didn’t. Boston came out of the locker room to open the third quarter and scored six straight points. Indiana never really threatened again.

For one of the rare times this season, the Celtics took a few jabs, hung in there and then landed a couple of haymakers of their own. The Pacers aren’t a good team, but we’ve seen the guys in green lose to lots of bad teams this season. Usually, it happens because the opponent becomes the aggressor and takes it to Boston. This time, it didn’t go that way. The Celtics never become the hunted and instead stayed the hunter for the whole run.

6. Al Horford has had some struggles this year on offense. His three-point shot has all but abandoned him and that’s made it a little harder for him to make plays as a passer, because defenders are dropping off more. That’s made it hard to play through Horford as much as his previous Boston stint. After getting the first bucket of the game, Horford seemed engaged and energized.

This play starts with Jayson Tatum correctly reading a blitz and giving up the ball quickly. It’s not the cleanest catch from Horford, but he knows where he wants to go before he’s even got the ball. Brown, corner pocket:

This is old school Al Horford. Catch and face up, then right into the backdown. Domantas Sabonis is strong in the post, but Horford goes right through him:

Not a lot of teams feature a 4 who can catch off a pick-and-roll, beat his defender off the dribble and then throw a lob for the dunk. But that’s exactly what Horford does to set up Robert Williams here:

It was a good day for Boston’s veteran big man and hopefully a sign he’s coming out of his slump.

7. Earlier, we wrote that Jaylen Brown carried the scoring in the middle of the game. He did, but Brown had some help from Dennis Schroder during that period. This shot from Schroder looked like Kemba Walker’s snatch-back pullup from the last couple of seasons:

In the third quarter, on Indiana’s last mini-run of the night, Schroder drilled back-to-back three-pointers and the game was effectively over. 23 points on a really efficient 7-of-11 shooting is great to see from Schroder.

8. With the starters carrying the load, Boston’s bench was relatively quiet. This was a fun play from the reserves though. Enes Freedom kept the ball alive for a second shot. As that one misses, Grant Williams sneaks in for the steal and Josh Richardson hammered it home:

9. Ime Udoka pushed his starters throughout most of the game. Udoka ran with just an eight-man rotation for about 45 minutes. It paid off, as the Celtics not only held, but built on a lead. That allowed Boston to empty the bench for the final few minutes of the game.

Udoka has said he’s running with the players he can trust. That’s meant cutting down the rotation and ask more of others minutes-wise. Right now, the Celtics are trying to stack wins. Development can come later. But for the time being, Udoka has his guys he trusts and he’s running with them and them only.

10. The Celtics have won three in a row to get back to .500 on the season. They’ve got a tough back-to-back coming, as they travel to Philadelphia on Friday and then back home to face the Bulls on Saturday. Those are two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, as the 76ers have won eight-of-ten and Chicago has the best record in the East.

Wins over the Knicks and Pacers are good but expected. But if Boston can pick up a split against the Sixers and Bulls, all of a sudden, the Celtics might be on to something. The rest of the month is full of games where Boston will be favored. Win the winnable games, pick up a couple of unexpected wins and you’re on to something.

We’ve been waiting for the run to come. Let’s see if this weekend gives us reason to believe it’s here.