Celtics-Pacers takeaways: Tatum, great defense power C’s to 118-101 win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The last time the Boston Celtics came to Indiana, the Pacers knocked them out of the NBA’s in-season tournament with a huge fourth quarter.
The C’s made sure history didn’t repeat itself Saturday night. Boston’s defense was outstanding and held the league’s highest-scoring offense to its lowest output of the season in a 118-101 win at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
The Celtics were in control nearly the entire game, led by their two stars Jayson Tatum (38 points) and Jaylen Brown (31 points).
After falling behind by as many as 16 in the first half, the Pacers mounted a good comeback and trimmed the Celtics’ lead to 84-81 at the end of the third quarter. But the Celtics’ execution level increased in the fourth quarter as they built the lead back up to 16. Tatum provided a lot of the offense and led an 18-4 run that put the score out of reach for Indiana.
Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis left the game in the first quarter after getting hit in the right eye. He briefly returned before exiting for good.
The win improves Boston’s record to a league-best 28-7.
The Celtics will remain in Indiana and play the Pacers again Monday night. Before we look ahead to that matchup, here are four takeaways from Saturday’s showdown.
Strong start defensivelyThe Celtics entered this game with the league’s second-best defensive rating, and they put the clamps on the Pacers in the first quarter. The Pacers put up just 17 points, making it their lowest-scoring first quarter of the season. It also tied for their lowest-scoring quarter in any game.
The C’s did a great job contesting shots as the Pacers hit on just seven of their 23 field goal attempts over the first 12 minutes, including a putrid 1-of-10 mark from 3-point range. Boston also blocked two shots and tallied one steal in the quarter. The Celtics did a nice job defending the paint, too, and forced four missed shots by the Pacers at the rim.
Here’s a look at the Pacers’ shot chart for the first quarter:
Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton didn’t score a single point and missed all four of his shot attempts in the quarter.
The Pacers came into Saturday as the highest-scoring team in the league at 127 points per game, but they had no answers for the Celtics’ active defense to begin this game.
The Celtics have been a very good team in the first quarter this season. They rank No. 1 in first quarter points allowed at 25.9 per game and easily own the best first-quarter net rating (21.2).
The Jays carry the offenseThe Celtics needed a huge game from their two superstars and that’s exactly what they got.
Tatum scored a game-high 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting, including eight 3-pointers. He also chipped in 14 rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes.
Tatum has now scored 30-plus points in three consecutive games, and he’s reached that level in five of his last seven matchups. The 25-year-old forward also has tallied 35 rebounds over the last three games. He’s making a massive impact on both ends of the floor.
Brown poured in 31 points on 13-of-20 shooting. He helped the Celtics open up a large first quarter lead with a team-high 10 points over the first 12 minutes.
Tatum and Brown have now scored 30-plus points in the same game 27 times, which is seven away from tying the league record held by former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The C’s are 25-2 in those 27 games.
Al Horford steps up with Kristaps Porzingis injuredPorzingis’ eye injury resulted in Horford playing more minutes than anticipated, and he delivered in a major way.
The veteran center provided 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting off the bench . He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out a team-high eight assists, including this perfect alley-oop to Brown that extended Boston’s lead to 15 in the fourth quarter.
Horford’s defense was excellent, too. He blocked three shots and altered several others.
Even at 37 years old, Horford is still capable of playing a leading role at both ends of the floor. It’s a huge luxury for the Celtics to have that kind of two-way player coming off the bench.
Still room for improvementThe Celtics’ elite defense made up for some of the sloppy mistakes they made throughout the game.
The C’s committed 18 turnovers, which led to 24 points for the Pacers. Indiana turned the ball over just nine times.
The free throw line was another area where the Celtics struggled. They made just 10 of their 19 attempts, including five misses in the third quarter as the Pacers trimmed the deficit from nine at halftime down to three at the end of the third quarter.
The easiest way to let a team back in the game is by not taking care of the basketball and missing free throws. The Celtics need to clean up those mistakes if they’re going to beat the Pacers again Monday night.