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Celtics hold off shorthanded Pacers for 128-123 win behind Jaylen Brown’s 32 points

Jaylen Brown and the Celtics starting five held off a feisty Pacers unit, securing 48th win.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Brown kept the Celtics offense afloat as he and Jayson Tatum each dropped in 30+ points, pushing Boston to a tough win over a testy Pacers team, 128-123.

Brown scored 32 with seven assists, Tatum scored a less-efficient 31 and all five Celtics starters scored in double-figures as Boston kept in the East’s top-3 on Friday night.

Sixth man Derrick White was also in double figures for the C’s, scoring 13 with 8/8 free throws. Al Horford had himself a night, as the big man finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

The Celtics had a relatively light injury sheet, missing just Robert Williams and Nik Stauskas. The Pacers were extremely shorthanded due to their injuries, missing Myles Turner, T.J. McConnell, T.J. Warren, Ricky Rubio, Chris Duarte and Malcolm Brogdon.

Boston’s offense was cooking early on, hitting 5/7 of their shots for an 11-2 lead. Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle called a timeout after only two and a half minutes elapsed — his team shot 0/5 from the floor.

After the timeout, the Pacers closed the gap, tying the game at 11-11 thanks to four Boston turnovers. Horford broke the 9-0 run with a three.

Tyrese Haliburton was the engine of the Pacers offense early, scoring 10 points on 4/4 shooting. Luckily for Boston, Brown was firing like an eight-cylinder engine as well, scoring 11 points on 5/7 shooting. Jayson Tatum had only two points, but was facilitating well with three assists. Brown finished the quarter with 14 points.

The Celtics defense tightened up near the end of the first, and they carried a 37-28 lead into the second quarter.

After an 0/5 start to the second, Tatum drilled a three from the right wing. On the ensuing possession he drew contact in the lane for two freebies.

Indiana continued to chip away at the Boston lead, but the Celtics consistently found ways to keep the Pacers at bay. Horford pulled down a Brown miss for an and-one putback, putting Boston up 10. After his and-one, Horford had 10 points, four rebounds and two assists. With six minutes left in the first half, Haliburton had the Pacers trailing 51-43.

Haliburton was lethal in the pick-and-roll, amassing 18 points on 7/8 shooting, including 4/4 from deep. After a floater over Payton Pritchard, Haliburton had 20 points with time left in the second.

The Pacers made a late push in the second to close the gap before halftime, relying on the sensational second-year guard. The Celtics saw their lead evaporate to just three points, but they led 68-61 at halftime after four straight points.

Haliburton led all scorers at halftime with 22 points, but Brown was not far behind with 21. Four of the Celtics five starters were in double figures, with Theis not far behind at eight points.

On the back of the Iowa State product, the Pacers continued to hang within 6-10 points, as Haliburton reached 28 points on 10/11 shooting, 6/6 from deep. The Celtics’ starting five kept fighting, as Daniel Theis continued to make key plays, reaching double figures in the third on a second chance layup.

As the third quarter wore on, the Celtics caught a break in the form of Haliburton’s fifth foul with four minutes remaining. Derrick White drew a foul on a loose ball, then hit the two free throws to extend the Celtics’ lead to nine.

Despite Haliburton sitting, the Celtics allowed the Pacers back in the game, seeing their lead drop to four. But, as they’d done all night, the Celtics fought back, stretching the lead back to eight after a Tatum poster.

That run was quickly answered by Indiana, and the Pacers cut the game to 90-89 with a minute remaining. White nailed two free throws to close out the third and the Celtics led 96-91 with 12 minutes to go. White had all eight of his points at the free throw line, shooting 8/8.

The Pacers bench was important to helping them hang in. The Indiana bench outscored the Boston bench 35-16 as the fourth wore on. Jalen Smith kept pushing inside and reached 14 points and five rebounds midway through the final period. Duane Washington Jr. came in and scored four straight for Indiana to reduce Boston’s lead back to two, 103-101.

Directly after Washington’s points, Haliburton fouled out with eight minutes remaining. He ended the night with 30 points. With the momentum seemingly shifted, White drilled a three to reach double-figures.

Grant Williams scored five straight for the Celtics to stretch the lead back to a comfortable eight points, 111-103. Williams, protector of Gotham City, got both of his buckets inside, finishing through contact.

The Pacers (25-52) were not playing like a bottom-tier team. Indiana once again cut the Celtics lead back to a single possession with minutes left in the fourth. With three and a half minutes left, up four, Brown forced his way inside, drew an and-one layup on Oshae Brissett and reached 30 points. Brown scored 30 for the 16th time this season.

Tatum quietly approached 30 late in the fourth, missing a free throw that would have made it 30.

Brown, fending off another flurry from Indiana, found Horford for a dime, then hit a pull-up jumper to keep the lead at five.

As the game clock dwindled, Tatum put the lead at six with a massive two-hand slam to reach 31 points. After a Brissett three, White found the net with a layup to put the game out of reach, finally burying the Pacers for good.

For more postgame coverage of the Celtics breaking their short losing skid, 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 Boston’s team effort tonight, buoyed by Brown and Tatum’s big scoring performances.