The Masked Man
There have been several iterations of the NBA player protective face mask. Rip Hamilton famously kept wearing his well after his bones healed, but Kobe Bryant, Lucious Harris, Joe Johnson, and Joel Embiid have all taken turns with the protective mask — which players say takes time to get accustomed to. I’m a few days late to this, but Jaylen’s version of the mask is without a doubt the most imposing, and it doesn’t appear to be impacting his play, as he scored 15 first-half points and was a team high +15. The mask is giving me serious MF Doom vibes.
No Offensive Rust
The Celtics weren’t suffering from vacation hangovers, as they shot 60 percent from the field en route to 34 first quarter points. 8 of their 12 field goals were assisted. Robert Williams got it started with a few early dunks, and Derrick White doesn’t appear to be slowing down from his pre-all-star break surge, as he scored 8 points on 3/3 shooting off the bench. But Boston collected 7 turnovers, and the Pacers scored 32 points in the first quarter as their bench stabilized the game after the Celtics built an early lead.
TJ McConnell: Certified Pest
The Pacers have a full squad of talented guards: Halliburton, Hield, Neismith, Duarte, Nembhard, and Mathurin. But don’t sleep on McConnell, as he makes a 2-way impact every night without the benefit of size or a three-point shot. On offense, he’s always circling around the basket with his low dribble, then stopping at the elbow to find a cutter or a shooter. Props to Timelord for doing a nice job as the primary defender. On defense, his aggression never alters no matter who he’s guarding. That’s how he’s maintained his rotation spot amidst the influx of solid young guards.
The Best Five
I loved seeing Smart, Brogdon, Tatum, Brown, and Horford playing together. There haven’t been too many opportunities for these five guys to see the floor together, but before the season, it was assumed that this would be their playoff closing lineup. Midway through the second quarter, they had a great offensive stretch, with four different players scoring on four different possessions. The Pacers would catch fire towards the end of the half and chip into the 16 point lead.