The Celtics were without two of their starters and were playing on the 2nd night of a back-to-back, but after a shaky first half performance they answered with yet another impressive showing when it mattered most. Marcus Smart found his shot (7 of 8 from the field for 15 points), Terry Rozier answered last night’s career high in points with another 17 tonight (on an equally efficient 7 of 9 from the field), and Kyrie Irving added 25 points (while making over half of his shot attempts, as well). The Celtics ultimately left Indiana with a 108-98 win to improve to 18-3 on the year.
The Game Flow
The first quarter was defined by Indiana’s ability to make shots from all over the floor. It seemed at the time that the Celtics D had been severely hampered by the absence of both stellar perimeter defenders, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. Indiana shot over 70% from the floor in the quarter, and were led by the enigma that is Lance Stephenson (12 points on 4 of 5 shooting for the quarter). Horford and Smart (3/4 from the field thus far) had 7 each for the Celtics as Boston’s 50% shooting from the field kept the team afloat, 32-27 after Q1.
The Celtics then chose to run with a group of Tatum and four bench players to start Q2 but inexplicably did not feed the 19 year old rookie the ball on offense. The result? Turnover after turnover with little points to show for it – Boston had 6 TO’s and just 18 points in Q2. The Celtics were ice cold from deep (4 of 15 in the game) and were losing the rebound advantage 22-15: a surefire recipe for a loss. The Celtics were lucky to have only been trailing 54-45 at the end of two.
Boston is known to own the 3rd quarter and tonight was no different. Al Horford gave us a taste of things to come when he came out of half and drilled a deep ball, followed by another two. He directed the defensive end and forced misses from Indiana which allowed Boston to string together their comeback. The Celtics eventually went on a 12-0 run with Al Horford supplying 7 straight points including a beautiful pump-fake, spin, step through move to score an easy 2 in the paint. He finished with a “quiet” 21 points to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds as he continues to be the Celtics unsung hero.
Irving was on the bench for much of Q3 as the Celtics stormed back to recapture the lead, but despite the star’s absence, the Celtics outscored the Pacers 37-16 during Q3 for a net gain of +21 points. A great last second out-of-bounds play drawn up by Stevens was successfully implemented by Smart, who sealed his defender at the top of the key, received the pass from the other end of the court, then turned and hit a fall away jumper to give the Celtics an 82-70 lead after Q3. Marcus Smart doesn’t miss last second shots. We know this now.
The Celtics could smell blood in the water during the fourth. Semi continued to play lockdown D and eventually managed to sink another from deep. He finished just 2 of 5 from behind the arc but as long as he plays this caliber of defense then he’ll keep getting minutes from Stevens. Marcus Smart continued to have his fall in, too, as his driving jumper in the lane during Q4 made him 8 of 9 for the game with 15 points (he came into the game shooting under 30% from the field, which is gross). Myles Turner did everything he could for the Pacers down the stretch but Terry Rozier and Kyrie Irving were the real killers tonight. Their disrupting of the passing lane, slashing into the paint, and knocking down of big shots propelled the Celtics in this final frame.
What The Hell Just Happened?
After shooting just 42% from the field and losing the rebound battle 22-15 in the first half, the Celtics rallied by hitting 78% of their shots in the 3rd quarter and by nabbing 11 boards compared to the Pacers 3. While we may be used to this second half fire from the Celtics by now, Indiana fans that haven’t been watching this team all year were definitely wondering what the hell just happened.