Celtics Grab Elusive Game 2 Win vs. Pacers, Now Halfway to NBA Finals

May 23, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts after a play in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers.
May 23, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts after a play in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers. / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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The Boston Celtics are now two wins away from their second appearance in the NBA Finals in three years.

The driving force fueling their first Game 2 victory this postseason was a stellar display of the identity Joe Mazzulla has worked to instill in this team.

Against an opponent that relentlessly raises the tempo like the Indiana Pacers, that understanding of complementary basketball and putting the proper weight on the impact what happens at one end has on what unfolds at the other calls for attacking a defense that entered the evening ranked 14th out of 16 playoff teams in points allowed per contest, yielding 112.4.

On Thursday night at TD Garden, led by Jaylen Brown repeatedly charging downhill, doing much of his damage at the basket in a 40-point performance, the hosts produced a 52-28 advantage in the paint.

Beyond consistently challenging Indiana's defense to wall off their drives to the rim, they crashed the glass to the tune of an 18-7 edge in second-chance scoring that further slowed down the visitors' offense and helped them manufacture seven more shots.

The Celtics also got another outstanding performance from Jrue Holiday, who registered 15 points on 6/7 shooting, distributed ten assists, and, two days after stifling Tyrese Haliburton, played an integral role in limiting the Pacers to 11/29 (37.9%) from beyond the arc.

An unexpected but key contributor in Boston's 126-110 win was Oshae Brissett, who came off the bench to provide an infusion of energy.

Whether he was sharing the floor with Al Horford or in a small-ball lineup with him and Jayson Tatum up front, he allowed the Celtics to operate with more length and athleticism on the floor as they utilized effective switches to speed up Indiana's offense to its detriment.

Brissett had a hand in a 20-0 run by the hosts in the first half and a 7-0 burst that helped them take a 13-point lead into the final frame before pulling away in the last 12 minutes.

Now for a further exploration into what stood out as Boston protected the parquet to take a 2-0 series lead to Indiana.

1. In the first quarter of Game 2, Luke Kornet exited with a left wrist sprain. Even with Xavier Tillman Sr. available, with Isaiah Jackson, an undersized center who runs the floor well out there for the Pacers, that prompted Joe Mazulla to call Oshae Brissett's number.

The former Pacer, who entered the contest at center in a small-ball lineup but quickly bumped down to the four while sharing the court with Al Horford, responded with energy, effectively switching on defense, setting quality screens for his teammates, and crashing the glass.

While his shift lasted slightly under three minutes, he earned a +11 plus-minus rating while contributing to a 20-0 run by the hosts.

2. That stretch by the Celtics featured some of their best defense through the first six quarters of this series, covering for each other, flying around to protect the perimeter, and forcing turnovers. It took until Aaron Nesmith's free throws at the 6:45 mark for Indiana to put points on the board in the second quarter.

Those stops fueled an up-tempo attack that consistently produced points at the basket. The result was Boston going from trailing 27-25 at the end of the first frame to leading 42-27 before Nesmith's free throws.

3. Impressively, the visitors responded with an 8-0 burst that turned into a 10-2 run, narrowing the gap to 47-37. With Pascal Siakam, who entered halftime with a team-high 16 points, leading the way, the Pacers also outscored the hosts 8-1 to close the second period.

To absorb that burst by Boston and enter intermission only trailing by six, 57-51, was an impressive display of resilience.

4. After delivering his best game as a Celtic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Jrue Holiday picked up where he left off in the first half on Thursday.

The two-time All-Star generated 10 points on 4/4 shooting and dished out seven assists. He matched Indiana's production in the latter category in the second quarter and only trailed them by four at the break.

5. On the heels of getting left off the All-NBA teams, Jaylen Brown didn't allow that to distract him, perhaps converting it into an added source of fuel as he relentlessly attacked downhill, manufacturing 24 points, the most at halftime.

6. Outscoring the Pacers 28-18 in the paint in the first two frames, producing a 12-5 advantage in second-chance points, and limiting the visitors to 5/15 from beyond the arc were also crucial to the Celtics leading at the break.

7. While both teams traded blows for much of the third quarter, it was again Brissett providing a spark off the bench.

The former Syracuse star forward re-emerged with Boston leading by seven and 5:20 left in the period. His effort and energy, plus a cut for a dunk off a dish from Jaylen Brown that prompted a Pacers timeout and fired up his teammates and head coach, helped extend the hosts' advantage to 13 after a 7-0 run.

The Celtics maintained that edge the rest of the way, taking a 93-80 lead into the final 12 minutes.

8. In a devastating blow for Indiana, Tyrese Haliburton, who took multiple hard falls resulting in awkward landings throughout Thursday's matchup, exited with 3:44 left in the third period and never returned, getting ruled out due to left leg soreness.

9. With the Pacers' star guard unavailable and Boston protecting a double-digit lead, Jaylen Brown delivered the knockout blow, burying a step-back three from the left wing, extending the hosts' advantage to 121-104 with 1:52 left before subbing out to an ovation from the TD Garden faithful for his 40-point performance.

10. Game 3 between the Celtics and Pacers is on Saturday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. That matchup will tip off at 8:30 EST.

Further Reading

Joe Mazzulla Addresses if Celtics Will Use Jayson Tatum at Center vs. Pacers

Jrue Holiday Starts Eastern Conference Finals with Best Game as a Celtic

Jaylen Brown's Heroics Propel Celtics to 1-0 Lead in Conference Finals

Aaron Nesmith Left Lasting Impression with Celtics Before Finding a Home with Pacers

Trivializing Celtics' Success in Tatum-Brown Era a Take Not Measured Properly: 'Doing

Past Hardships Brought Out Best in Al Horford in Career Night: 'You Saw His Gift'

Jayson Tatum Breaks Out of Scoring Slump That Never Defined Him: 'Underappreciated'

Kristaps Porzingis Discusses Target Date to Rejoin Celtics' Playoff Run: 'Doing Everything I Can'

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Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.