After staving off a late-game comeback, the Boston Celtics downed the Indiana Pacers 129-124 for their second straight win on Tuesday night. With the win, Boston is now 7-2 on the second night of a back-to-back this season, and their lead in the Eastern Conference continues to widen.
Their narrow victory over Indiana comes on the heels of Joe Mazzulla’s statements on entitlement and playing the right way regardless of the score. After his first game back since spraining his ankle against the Miami Heat, Kristaps Porzingis backed up Coach Mazzulla, praising his approach on team mentality and focus.
Kristaps Porzingis says he “couldn’t agree more” with Joe Mazzulla emphasizing the need to avoid “entitlement.”— Bobby Krivitsky (@BobbyKrivitsky) January 31, 2024
Porzingis stressed the need to stay locked in every game and said the Pacers’ comeback was a credit to their style of play, not a lack of effort by the #Celtics pic.twitter.com/R4OYrUns7a
“I saw that on Twitter. Obviously, I didn’t play the last game but when he said that, that was so on point. I couldn’t agree more,” said Porzingis after the win Tuesday night. “We are really good and we can win games without being 100% locked in. We can still win games, but that’s not what we’re trying to achieve. We want to be the best version of this team that we can be, and that’s why we need to lock in each and every game, each and every quarter, each and every possession just as long as we can.”
Boston has shown some of their potential volatility in the past two games, yo-yoing between blowing big leads or overcoming massive deficits. The one constant has been when the Celtics play the right way, the game rewards them and their offense flourishes. Even though Indiana came back in the second half, Porzingis insisted that it wasn’t a matter of effort for the Celtics, and credited the Pacers for pushing them with their style of play.
“We didn’t play our best basketball, but to be honest, it did not feel like we didn’t play hard,” said Porzingis. “Obviously, it’s a back-to-back for us, but they’re that type of team. They kind of make you look bad because they go for offensive rebounds all the time, they move around like crazy, play chaotic. They get those second chance points and it looks really bad, and it kills that energy, kills the crowd, kills our energy. So it’s tough and ugly to play against them.”
In defense of the Celtics, the Pacers are currently leading the league in points (124.8 ppg) and field goal percentage (50.6 FG%), and that’s with Tyrese Haliburton missing a good chunk of games after hurting his hamstring against Boston in their last matchup. They’ve given the Bucks and 76ers problems, and knocked the Celtics out of the In-Season Tournament. They’re still figuring things out, but Indiana is not by any means a team to be taken lightly.
Celtics beat Pacers 129-124 for their second straight win in a tough back-to-back. They improve to 2-1 on their homestand with the schedule about to lighten up a lot.— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) January 31, 2024
As for Tuesday night, it was Boston’s defense that sealed the win over Indiana, with blocks on back-to-back possessions by Derrick White and Jayson Tatum essentially icing the game. While it’s still a work in progress, that focus and level of mental toughness hasn’t come overnight for the Celtics, and Joe Mazzulla continues to preach those principles in the locker room.
“Joe is very smart, he’s also very driven,” said Porzingis. “He knows how important that mindset and the mentality is, and that’s just who he is. He does Jiu-Jitsu, he plays chess, he’s always trying to evolve as a coach, as a person, and he transmits that to us. Yeah, he’s a young coach, but I think he’s very smart and that’s something that’s well-received.”
Tatum’s game-winning block on Myles Turner pic.twitter.com/US9yK4K5Nm— Celtics Junkies (@Celtics_Junkies) January 31, 2024
That’s a pretty resounding endorsement of Mazzulla and his methods, especially when coming from a veteran like Porzingis, and it makes a difference as a new player if you can believe in your coach. Talent can get you far in the NBA, but if you have a locker room that fully buys in with a coach that challenges them, it can bring the team to a whole new level. KP credits a big part of that belief to Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who’ve continued to lead their teammates by example.
“He definitely challenges guys, and that’s a great thing,” said Porzingis. “I think you also have to give credit to JT and JB. He can challenge those guys, and If he can challenge those guys, then he can challenge everybody else. So you have to give credit to JB and JT for being open to that. I think that’s a big part of what makes us a great team.”
The Celtics will look to make it three straight Ws as they welcome the the Los Angeles Lakers to TD Garden tonight, 7:30 PM EST tipoff.