June 25, 2024

Brighton Journal

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How Jaylen Brown led Celtics to a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over Pacers: 4 takeaways

How Jaylen Brown led Celtics to a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over Pacers: 4 takeaways

Written by Eric Nehm, Jay King, Jared Weiss, James Boyd, and Hunter Patterson

Jaylen Brown matched his playoff career high with 40 points, plus five rebounds and two assists, to lead the Boston Celtics to a 126-110 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. Brown, Derrick White (23) and Jayson Tatum (23) scored 86 of Boston’s 126 points, with the Celtics now leading the series 2-0.

Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists, and Tyrese Haliburton was forced out in the fourth quarter due to pain in his left leg after 28 minutes of play. Indiana shot 52.4 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point range, but it wasn’t enough to outpace Boston, which shot 53.4 percent and 40.5 percent from 3.

The Pacers now return to Indiana without a series win, although they started last round against the New York Knicks in a two-game hole before coming back to win the series in seven games.

Boston has lost just two games during these playoffs, with no streak extending beyond five games.

Game 3 will take place on Saturday at 8:30 PM ET in Indiana.

Boston benefits from physical fitness

The Celtics are often viewed as a slick team, but they took advantage of their size and athleticism in Game 2. They grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, including 10 in the first half. They outscored the Pacers 54-34 in the paint and 18-13 in second-chance points.

A knock on Boston has long been the amount of time the team spends on the perimeter, sometimes at the expense of pressure on the rim, but the Celtics often played upside down in this matchup. In this series, they should. The Celtics guards are great. Its wings are large.

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They have a significant muscle advantage at several positions in this series, especially on the perimeter. They took advantage of it in the second game. Brown has repeatedly descended. Guarded by Indiana’s smaller backfield, both Jrue Holiday and White were able to build big, effective stat lines.

Led by Brown, the Celtics were able to get what they wanted on the court. Boston ran away with Game 2 because the Pacers couldn’t get a stop.

To make this series stick in Indiana, the Pacers will need to do a better job of providing resistance against the Celtics’ physicality. Haliburton’s injury status also looms as a big factor. -Jay King, Celtics beat writer

The Celtics are taking control of the chaos

The Pacers’ offense was chaotic, forcing the Celtics’ defense to make countless reads and decisions throughout the night. It took Boston some time to adjust, but the Celtics seemed to have the chaos under control in Game 2.

Haliburton’s injury has taken the wind out of Indiana’s sails, but the Pacers rarely seem to fight the Celtics to keep up with the flow of play.

Brown was scoring the ball electric, but it was the playmaking from Holiday and White that kept Boston’s offense flowing when Brown wasn’t hitting great shots. As this series continues, it’s clear that Boston can rely on its guards to keep the offense going all night.

With Oshae Brissett giving some solid minutes to the injured Luke Kornet, the second unit is no longer a defensive sieve. If Boston can hold up well, the Celtics will be in good shape heading back to Indianapolis. – Jared Weiss, Celtics beat writer

Indiana falls victim to regular lapses

Facing the best team in the league, the Pacers knew they would need to be nearly perfect to somehow upset the Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals. On Thursday, the Pacers were far from perfect and regularly committed lapses that wouldn’t happen in the postseason.

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In the first half, the Celtics grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and scored 12 second-chance points. In the third quarter, the Pacers failed to match up on defense several times and gave up easy transition sets.

In the fourth quarter, TJ McConnell fired a rocket pass to teammate Isaiah Jackson from five feet out and the ball flew through the air for the Celtics’ steal. The Celtics used the rarely used forward Brissett as a midfielder and won the nine minutes he played by 15 points as the Pacers struggled to find an answer to the unusual small-ball profile.

But while all of those things were serious issues in Game 2, they paled in comparison to Haliburton being knocked out of the game. If Haliburton seriously aggravates the left hamstring injury that forced him to miss 10 games in mid-January, the Pacers will struggle to compete with the Celtics in this series. —Eric Nehm, senior NBA writer

Miles Turner raised his hands in frustration. The Pacers center couldn’t believe he was whistled for his third foul with 4:11 left in the second quarter.

Turner begged Indiana coach Rick Carlisle to challenge what looked like a questionable call when Turner and the Celtics collided with Al Horford near the baseline, but instead, Carlisle turned to his seat and asked Isaiah Jackson to replace Turner.

When Turner finally sat on the bench, his annoyance was evident on his face as he vented to his teammates and assistant coaches.

That moment foreshadowed a performance that Turner might like to forget. After scoring 18 of his 23 points in the first half of Game 1, he was held scoreless in the first half of Game 2.

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Turner eventually got on the board with a turnaround jumper midway through the third quarter that cut Boston’s lead to four points, but Indiana couldn’t overcome Turner’s rare night in these playoffs.

Turner entered Thursday averaging 17.9 points while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 47.3 percent on 3-pointers over the Pacers’ first 14 playoff games. He finished Game 2 with eight points and four turnovers in 24 minutes.

Of all the players on the Pacers’ roster, Turner is the last one who needs reminding how special this run is. As the team’s longest-tenured player, it took Turner three years to return to the playoffs, and he only advanced past the first round after making his sixth playoff appearance of the season.

He’ll need to play a lot better in Game 3 if the Pacers hope to avoid falling into an 0-3 hole, especially if Haliburton is still bothered by the left leg soreness that forced him out of Thursday’s game. -James Boyd, staff writer

Required reading

(Photo: Brian Babineaux/NBAE via Getty Images)