As the old saying goes: It’s now how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Boston Celtics looked doomed for defeat on the second night of a back-to-back after an ugly first half, but the C’s responded in a big way in the final two quarters, rallying to defeat the Indiana Pacers 108-98.
The C’s pulled off the road win despite the absences of two regular starters, as Jaylen Brown (personal leave) and Marcus Morris (knee) were not active for the game. Boston’s stars rose to the occasion, though, as Kyrie Irving (25 points, six assists) and Al Horford (21 points, six assists, five rebounds) led the way for the C’s.
With the win, the Celtics improve to 18-3, while the Pacers fall to 11-9.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Daniel Theis
Indiana didn’t take an overwhelming amount of shots in the first quarter, but it made its field goals count. The Pacers shot an impressive 70 percent from the field in the opening 12 minutes and held a 32-27 lead heading into the second. Lance Stephenson was strong in the first, posting 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including two 3-pointers. Horford, Smart and Irving led the way for the C’s with seven points apiece. Boston matched Indiana with 12 field goals made in the first, but it wasn’t very aggressive attacking the basket, which resulted in no free throws attempted.
The Celtics posted 40 first-quarter points in their Friday night win over the Orlando Magic, but Saturday, the C’s didn’t eclipse the 40-point threshold until there was 1:25 left in the second. Boston’s shooting woes continued in the second frame, as it converted on only seven of its 16 shots from the field and trailed Indiana 54-45 heading into the break.
Neither team was particularly careful with the ball early on, as the two clubs combined for 20 first-half turnovers. The most glaring difference, however, was 3-point success. The Pacers buried half of their shots (6-of-12) attempted from beyond the arc, while the Celtics only sunk 4 of 15 attempts from long-range. Irving led all players with 15 first-half points and was Boston’s only double-digit scorer after two quarters.
The Celtics lacked rhythm in the first half, but the green came out with a serious sense of urgency in the third quarter. Boston’s offense started to click in the opening minutes of the second half, and it was able to take its first lead of the game on a Terry Rozier 3-pointer with 5:04 left in the quarter. The C’s didn’t let up, and held an 82-70 lead heading into the fourth after ending the third on a 19-4 run.
Boston posted one of its most efficient quarters of the season in the third. The Celtics only missed four shots in the quarter, posting a 14-of-18 line from the field, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. Horford was the man in the third quarter with 12 points.
KYRIE THE CLOSER
Irving only scored two points in the Celtics’ third-quarter rally, but the star guard was far more active on the scoring end when it mattered most. The Pacers flirted with a comeback late in the game, but Irving’s eight fourth-quarter points helped the Celtics put the game on ice. The C’s as a team once again were strong from the field late in the game, as they posted a collective 11-for-18 mark from the field in the fourth quarter.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Kyrie puts Darren Collison on skates.
The Celtics return to action Monday night when they host the Detroit Pistons. Tip-off from TD Garden is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images
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