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Biggest takeaways from Game 2 between Celtics and Pacers

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24th May 2024 | 2 Views

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The Boston Celtics defended home court definitively, grabbing Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night — the first time they’ve been up 2-0 this postseason.

Led by Jaylen Brown matching his playoff career high with 40 points, the Celtics’ dominant offense proved too much for the Pacers, who allowed a 20-0 run in the first half, giving Boston the lead for good.

Despite Pascal Siakam‘s hot hand in the third quarter — he led his team with 28 points and five rebounds — the Pacers struggled without Tyrese Haliburton, who had just 10 points and eight assists before leaving in the third quarter because of a sore left hamstring.

The series will continue in Indiana for Saturday’s Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC) and Monday’s Game 4 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2).

After a dominant showing by the Celtics in TD Garden, our NBA insiders break down the biggest moments in Game 2, what the Pacers need to do to bounce back in Indiana and what the imminent return of center Kristaps Porzingis, out because of a calf strain since April 30, means for this series and potentially the Finals.

Tim Bontemps: The Celtics have to take advantage and close out this series quickly. Boston has put itself in difficult spots in recent playoffs by dragging out series, but after playing back-to-back five-game sets to open these playoffs, the East’s top seed is within striking distance of securing another quick exit for its opponent. The Western Conference finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves looks like it could be a long, difficult series, so if Boston can get a week off, it will give itself the best possible chance to raise Banner 18.

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Kevin Pelton: I’m most intrigued by Boston turning to 6-foot-7 Oshae Brissett as an undersized center after Luke Kornet left the game because of a left wrist sprain. Hopefully for the Celtics, this won’t be an issue for long with Kristaps Porzingis on track to return. For now, Brissett’s ability to defend multiple positions gives coach Joe Mazzulla more options for switching pick-and-rolls. Boston started him on Haliburton at times, giving the Celtics the ability to switch without putting a smaller defender on the screener. Boston ended up outscoring Indiana by 18 points in Brissett’s 12 minutes. The Celtics certainly can’t count on that level of success going forward, but Brissett stepped up in a key spot against his former team.


2. Biggest key for Indiana to get back into this series?

1. What is your biggest takeaway from Game 2?

Jamal Collier: Letting Game 1 slip away hurts even more for Indiana now. The Pacers entered the series as heavy underdogs but had a golden opportunity to win the opening game of the series. It would have given them some breathing room as they return to Indy with Haliburton’s status up in the air. Now Indiana has to play with a heightened sense of urgency in Game 3 to save its season, and it might be without its All-NBA point guard at 100%.

Pelton: Haliburton’s health. If Haliburton isn’t the force he was during Indiana’s four wins over the New York Knicks in the East semifinals, and in Game 1 of this series, the Pacers have little hope of generating enough offense to keep up with the Celtics. Right now, everything else is secondary to that for Indiana.

Collier: Beyond Haliburton’s health, the Pacers hope returning home can provide them with the same boost it has all postseason (where they are 6-0) and some fresh legs. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged he saw some tired legs at the end of Game 2 after playing three road games in five days, which is why Siakam and Aaron Nesmith did not play much during the fourth quarter. Getting healthy and back to running up and down the floor will be key for the Pacers to get back in the series.

Bontemps: Pelton summed this one up. If Haliburton isn’t healthy, and nowhere near the level he has played at during his past eight playoff games, this series might not make it to a Game 5.

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3. Fact or fiction: Celtics should hold out Porzingis until the Finals

Collier: Fiction. If he’s healthy and can get on the court before the end of this series, it’s worth getting him some game action before the Finals. That could not only help him get accumulated to playing again, but also help the rest of the Celtics and get him reintegrated into the team’s playstyle.

Pelton: Fiction. Although Boston certainly shouldn’t rush Porzingis back based on the series so far, I think it would be beneficial to get him some game action prior to the Finals if his recovery is on schedule for Game 4, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

By Game 1 of the Finals on June 6, Porzingis will have been out more than five weeks. Just three players since 1997 have returned in the Finals after longer absences, per my research: Jameer Nelson (out all playoffs) in 2009, DeMarcus Cousins in 2019 and Andre Iguodala in 2022. None of those players averaged more than 18 minutes per game in the series. The Celtics will want Porzingis ready for a much larger role than that.

Bontemps: Fiction. The goal for the Celtics has always been to get Porzingis back at some point during this series. If he does make it back and gets a handful of minutes — possibly in those potentially vacated because of Kornet’s wrist injury — the 7-foot-3 big man will be able to get his legs under him again in a game setting ahead of a potential Finals berth. Easing him in before this round is over, while also enjoying a comfortable series lead, would be the best outcome for the Celtics.

Mark Cork

@Markcork

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