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


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

Jaylen Brown scored the highest total of his playoff career with 40 points, along with five rebounds and two assists, leading the Boston Celtics to a 126-110 win over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. Brown, Derrick White (23) and Jayson Tatum (23) combined to score 86 of Boston's 126 points, as the Celtics now lead the series 2-0.

Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Tyrese Haliburton left in the fourth quarter with a sore left foot after playing 28 minutes. Indiana shot 52.4 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point range, but it wasn't enough to overtake Boston, which shot 53.4 percent from three and 40.5 percent from 3.

The Pacers now head back to Indiana without a series win, despite having started with a two-game lead against the New York Knicks in the previous round and then winning the series in seven games.

Boston lost only two games during these playoffs, and no series went beyond five games.

Game three is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET in Indiana.

Boston used physicality

The Celtics are often viewed as a superior team, but they used their size and physicality to their fullest 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.

Boston has long been criticized for how much time the team spends on the perimeter, sometimes at the expense of pressuring the rim, but the Celtics played inside-out more often in this game. In this series, they should. The Celtics' guards are big. They have big wings.

They have significant strength in multiple positions in this series, especially on the perimeter. And they took advantage of it in Game 2. Brown kept getting shut down over and over again. Jrue Holiday and White, who defended Indiana's small backcourt, were both able to put up big, efficient statistical lines.

Led by Brown, the Celtics were able to run on the court and win at will. Boston took the lead in Game 2 because the Pacers were unable to provide any stops.

To win this series in Indiana, the Pacers will have to perform better against the physicality of the Celtics. Haliburton's injury status is also a big factor. — Jay King, Celtics beat writer

Celtics regain control of chaos

The Pacers offense is disorganized, forcing the Celtics defense to make countless reads and decisions throughout the night. It took Boston some time to adapt, but the Celtics looked like they had control over the chaos in Game 2.

Haliburton's injury slowed Indiana's momentum, but the Pacers struggled to stay in the game with the Celtics.

Brown scored the ball prolifically, but the playmaking of Holiday and White kept Boston's offense going even when Brown wasn't hitting great shots. As this series progressed, it was clear that Boston could rely on its guards to keep the offense going all night.

Oshae Brissett has provided some solid minutes in place of the injured Luke Kornet, so the second unit is no longer a defensive sieve. If Boston's bench can hold up well, the Celtics will be in great form when they return to Indianapolis. — Jared Weiss, Celtics beat writer

Indiana victim of routine lapses

Playing against the best team in the league, the Pacers knew they had to be nearly perfect to somehow beat the Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals. On Thursday, the Pacers were far from perfect and routinely made blunders that simply cannot happen in the postseason.

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 lost easy transition buckets.

In the fourth quarter, TJ McConnell threw a pass to teammate Isaiah Jackson from five feet out and the ball went into the air, allowing the Celtics to steal the ball. The Celtics deployed seldom-used forward Brissett as center and scored 15 points in nine minutes played, while the Pacers struggled to find an answer to the unusual small ball.

But while all of these things were serious problems in Game 2, they pale in comparison to Haliburton being out of the game. If Haliburton seriously aggravates the left hamstring injury that caused 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

Myles Turner threw his hands up in frustration. The Pacers center couldn't believe he was whistled for his third foul with 4:11 left in the second quarter.

Turner urged Indiana coach Rick Carlisle to challenge a decision that looked questionable when Turner and Celtics center Al Horford collided near the baseline, but instead, Carlisle turned to his bench and asked Isaiah Jackson to replace Turner.

When Turner finally sat down on the sidelines, his displeasure was evident on his face and he lashed out at his teammates and assistant coaches.

That moment kicked off a performance Turner might want 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.

Turner finally got on the board with a turnaround jumper midway through the third quarter to cut Boston's lead to four points, but Indiana was unable to overcome Turner's rare bad 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 in 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 team, Turner is the last player who needs a reminder of how special this run is. As the team's longest-tenured player, it took Turner three years to get back to the playoffs, and he didn't advance past the first round until his sixth playoff appearance this season.

The Pacers will need to play a lot better in Game 3 if they want to avoid falling to an 0-3 spot, especially if Haliburton is still bothered by the left foot soreness that forced him out of Thursday’s game. — James Boyd, staff writer

Required Reading

(Photo: Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)


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