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A scrappy win: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Pacers

Boston had to work overtime, but they came out of Indiana with a victory

NBA: Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers both came out of the All-Star break ready to go. Despite not really being any sort of rivalry, things were pretty chippy almost from the jump. And both teams went at each other hard, with lots of trash talk mixed in.

It wasn’t the smooth, coast-to-victory performance you might have wanted from Boston. But the Celtics got the win on a night where the Pacers were making almost everything. It took overtime, but wins are wins. With Boston trying to hold off the Milwaukee Bucks atop the conference, you take the victories however you get them.

2. The Celtics haven’t been a great offensive rebounding team this season, but they took advantage of the Pacers being the NBA’s worst defensive rebounding team by getting to the boards for 20 of their own misses.

As a reference, the Celtics shot well in this game, finishing at 51.5%. They rebounded 20 of their 48 misses for 22 second-chance (and sometimes third-chance!) points.

Al Horford did the work here, before Jaylen Brown flipped the extra pass for Derrick White to step into a three:

This is good patience by Grant Williams to pick out Malcolm Brogdon on the extra opportunity:

Sam Hauser timed this crash from the weakside perfectly before setting Jayson Tatum up for a second look at a three:

The last offensive rebounds were the biggest of the game. Marcus Smart rebounds Tatum’s miss and makes the heads up play to get the ball back up on the rim, not knowing if Tatum’s shot caught rim or not. As Smart’s shot falls off, Tatum flies in untouched for the huge tip-in:

3. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both had 30-point double-doubles, but we want to recognize Al Horford first. The veteran big man did a good job making sure everyone got a chance to eat.

Good things happen when Horford rips-and-runs off the glass. He’s always got his head up and that allows him to pick out Sam Hauser, when Chris Duarte loses track of the shooter in transition:

Horford is always looking to find shooters and cutters. This ball is in his hands for a nanosecond before it’s off to Malcolm Brogdon at the arc:

This space is always going to appreciate some quality big-to-big passing:

4. Jayson Tatum has hit the point where he can play poorly (by his own admission!), and still finish with a 31/12/7 line. It was nice to see Tatum make things happen when the jumper wasn’t always falling.

Tatum caught Buddy Hield helping a step too close here and that got Derrick White a clean look:

Boston uses this little slip screen at least once or twice per game, and it always seems to work:

Tatum could have shot this. He caught it in rhythm and had just enough space. But he knew Brogdon had a better look, so he zipped the extra pass to the corner:

5. Jaylen Brown admitted that wearing the mask impacts his peripheral vision and that it gets hot. But you couldn’t tell it was bothering him all that much.

We love seeing Brown dig down to help for the steal, before hitting the big man with the hesitation dribble for the layup:

Brown has rounded out his offensive game so well. He’ll still overpower guys when he can, but sometimes it’s as simple as shooting over the smaller defender:

Oh…speaking of overpowering guys:

We don’t get a lot of Brown working out of a post-up, but he does a good job here of getting to his spot before shooting over old friend Aaron Nesmith:

6. Nothing from Rob Williams’ stat line is going to jump off the page. But Williams is improving in the non-stat areas, and he’s doing so very rapidly. Williams used to be a poor screen setter. He was often late, moving or slipping too early. Now, Williams is right up there with Al Horford for the guy Celtics shooters use the most for screen assists.

Derrick White likes his screens a little higher up the floor, so that he can dribble into his pullup jumper. Williams delivers a good one here:

Malcolm Brogdon is slower to get into his shot, so Williams has to hold the screen a tad longer, while rolling in the defender’s path:

Jayson Tatum likes to set up the defender by faking one way before going to the other. On these actions, Williams just needs to plant himself to let Tatum work behind him:

7. The Celtics are as healthy as they’ve been all season. Everyone but Danilo Gallinari is available, and that makes for some tough lineup decisions for Joe Mazzulla.

Payton Pritchard, Blake Griffin and newcome Mike Muscala didn’t get to see the floor in this one. Grant Williams and Luke Kornet combined for just 11 minutes. Derrick White and Rob Williams were both on the bench down the stretch in the fourth quarter and for most (Williams) or all (White) of overtime.

As long as everyone understands their role, and stays ready knowing their time will come, it won’t be a problem. But if anyone starts feeling like they need more floor-time, this could become an issue. That’s unlikely to happen, as everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction towards a Finals run. But it may be a summer situation for Brad Stevens and the front office to figure out.

8. On the subject of depth: Boston got some huge performances off the bench. Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White combined for 41 points on 15-of-24 shooting, while Sam Hauser made a case that the Celtics don’t really need to add another wing.

White is really good at using his spin move to get to the rim. Part of what makes that work, is White reads the floor so well. He knows where the defenders are on this play, and that no help is coming:

Opponents continue to try and test Sam Hauser on defense, and the results regularly go the Celtics way:

This play is fun, because the Pacers are very concerned with the window dressing on the weakside of the floor. Marcus Smart stays rooted to the strongside corner, which keeps his man home. That allows Malcolm Brogdon to cook rookie Bennedict Mathurin off the bounce:

Again, test Hauser at your own risk:

And after he got the block above, Hauser did this. 3&D indeed:

9. It was kind of a weird Marcus Smart game. He was pretty sloppy with the ball and let some personal beef with Tyrese Haliburton momentarily take him out of the team game. But because he’s Marcus Smart, he stepped up late.

Smart post-ups almost always lead to good things:

A little later, Smart got his defender leaning the wrong way after helping and he got to the pullup in the paint:

Add some tough, ball-denial defense on Haliburton throughout the extra period to the above, and it’s easy to see why Smart is loved and trusted.

10. The Celtics head to Philadelphia for a Saturday night showcase game against the Sixers. Boston is up by three games over Philadelphia. A win would make it a four-game lead, but would also give the Celtics the tiebreaker. That would just about eliminate the 76ers from catching the guys in green in the standings.

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