The Celtics Win Over The Pacers Was Everything We Love And Hate About The Best Team In The NBA

Dylan Buell. Getty Images.

With all the time off since the last time we saw the Celts play, maybe you were looking forward to the break because your heart needed some time to recover after the ups and downs of the first 60 games. It can be stressful watching the best team in the NBA, I get it. These are the Boston Celtics we're talking about, in what world have they ever made their lives easy? When that ball goes up for the opening tip you are making a conscious decision to put your entire body through hell for the next 2.5 hours. You're going to experience the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, elite basketball, horrific basketball, and basically every human emotion that is physically capable of experiencing all in a 48 (and sometimes more) minute span. There's nothing on the planet like it.

This is why we love them.

How do I know this to be true? Because I survived the 142-138 OT win against the Pacers. I'll tell ya, I missed this feeling over the past week. Not just the high of yet another NBA leading 43rd Celtics win, but the emotional rollercoaster we all took in order to get it. To put it simply…

Giphy Images.

I'm addicted to all of it. The dominance, the terrible late game decision making, Joe being a psycho, all of it. This is the team I know and love and I'm glad to see that nothing has changed despite the break. We're at the point of the season where I don't really give a shit of how a win looks (especially the first after a week off), I just need to see that green W. Fortunately, we've had plenty over this current stretch since late January

Would I prefer less stress in a game against a 26-35 team? Maybe. But I also like the Celts having to prove they can execute in big moments when it comes time to win a game. So while some may crush the Celts for almost losing to another lottery team, I choose to look at this as their opportunity to snag their 19th clutch time win (19-8). Playoff games are going to come down to these types of moments, so I say give me the reps now. That's not to say I wouldn't have been annoyed had they lost, but they didn't. They made enough plays to win the game and frankly, that's all that matters.

So for the first time in 9 days, let's dive in.

The Good

- In a game like this, there were a few guys who I would deem worthy of the highly coveted top spot in this section. It basically goes, NBA title/Finals MVP/Regular Season MVP/All NBA/the top spot in the Good Section when it comes to player achievements in the NBA, so this is a big deal.

After giving it some thought and running the data, I just don't know how we could start with anywhere other than the play of Malcolm Brogdon

Facing his old team, I could make the case that Brogdon was the best player on the floor last night. He finished with 25/5/7/2 with only 1 TO on 9-12 (5-6) shooting, including HUGE buckets down the stretch of the fourth quarter. His 36 minutes made me a little nervous but the team did just have a week off and honestly, he was too good in his minutes to not have him on the floor to close. Between Brogdon/Smart/White it's going to be interesting to see how Joe handles things because obviously someone is going to be the odd man out despite the chances that they were also really good in a game. That's just what legit depth does.

Since the calendar turned to 2023, Malcolm Brogdon is shooting 50% from deep on 5.1 3PA  night. If you were curious, that's a 21 game stretch. If you're not a huge math guy, that's 35% of the Celts season. Read that shit again please and let it sink in. There's a reason Brogdon leads the NBA in three point shooting, and I'm starting to think it's because he barely misses. I'm still working on that theory, but I think it has legs.

Having a talent like this come off your bench is such a luxury I'm not sure how Brad Stevens isn't in jail at the moment. How did the rest of the league allow him to do this? This man is about to be on the Danny Ainge treatment with opposing GMs so fast it'll make your head spin. What a get.

- While some thought both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should have sat out of the All Star game for rest or whatever, I actually think the run helped Jaylen. He has to adjust to his mask, and a fake game with no defense was the perfect place for him to get a decent feel for how things are going to be for the next 4-6 weeks. The early results? Yup, still dominant

30/11/3 on 11-24 (3-5) if you were looking for the best Celts starter in this game, the answer was pretty clearly Jaylen. He finished a starter best +10 in his 42 minutes and while there were some issues late (more on that in a bit), our first look at masked Jaylen in a game that counts was pretty damn good. The best thing I can say is it looked like Jaylen without the mask, and that guy is an All NBA player.

What I loved most about Jaylen's night was that he in no way playted hesitant. He didn't shy away from contact given his injury, with 7 of his 11 FGM coming inside the paint and at the rim 

You never really know how an injury is going to impact a guy mentally and if he would change his game because he was concerned about getting hit in the face. I think we can now say we do not have to worry about that with Jaylen, and that's a relief. 

- I don't think Tatum played all that well, but when our generational duo does some generational shit, that's probably pretty good

Oh, and the Celts are now 21-0 when the Jays both drop 30 in a game. That also seems pretty good in my humble opinion. Something tells me they are going to smash this Kobe/Shaq record, shit they'll probably match it tomorrow against the Sixers since that team can't defend either guy even if they tried.

- Quick check in on Mazzulla Ball if that's alright with you

142 points

18 3PM

39 3PA

31 AST

15 TOs

Yup, still rocks. The 3PA number is a little low for my liking, but I'm not going to complain about 51/46% splits.

- It goes without saying that offensive rebounding won the Celtics this game. Last night was the 2nd highest OREB total of the season for the Celts (20), and the only game to beat it was the 12/21 game against the Pacers where the Celts had 21. Their lack of size is an issue. 

Those 20 OREB led to 22 2nd chance points, obviously Tatum's at the end was the one that sealed the win, but this was a collective effort from basically everyone on the roster. No starter had fewer than 2 OREB, Jaylen had 5 by himself, and that shit is all energy and effort. Those are the little things that add up over the course of a game and when you're at this point of the year the small details matter more than ever.

- What is the NBA supposed to do when the Celtics starting duo drops 60+ and then the bench guard duo comes in and scores 40+?

This is why it was awesome to FINALLY see the roster at full health and how Joe can be creative in his rotations. With everyone settling back into their intended role, you can see what a problem this is going to be for opposing teams. The talent disparity with second units is going to be an issue. There's no real drop off in terms of the fact that the Celts are trotting out starter level talent in their second unit. How many other teams can say that right now? 

- Can we talk about this new reality we live in where Sam Hauser is a legit 3&D wing? Yeah that's right, I said 3&D and I meant it

Not to mention Hauser finished 3-3 (2-2), made some huge plays in the 4th, and currently is under this contract

God dammit Brad, you did it again!

I love the fact that NBA players are still tricked by Hauser's whiteness. It's like nobody has watched any film and just think they can take this dude because he's kinda goofy and very white. Time and time again we see Hauser lock people up in isolation to the point where we're running out of vacancies on Hauser Island. The housing market is through the roof right now so good luck to any future residents when it comes to finding a place to live.

- In the games biggest moments, guess who showed up

Marcus Smart was the guy in OT, leading the Celts with 7 points and he did it the exact way everyone should want this team to play in these close OT games. He got his ass on the block and abused his defenders with his size. Smart finished with 15/5/3 on 5-11, but his impact came in two areas for me.

First, he didn't back down from Haliburton which was big because honestly Haliburton has dominated this team as of late. Smart missed the first game this year 

In the final moments of regulation with Haliburton holding for the last shot and potential game winner, guess who was there. The DPOY

Then in OT, Smart's presence of mind to read Tatum's airball perfectly and then immediately get a shot up was fantastic situational awareness and the type of small winning plays that makes Smart who he is. Just clean up the turnovers and we're golden.

- Joe Mazzulla is a legit psycho and I don't think it gets appreciated enough

The Bad

- You may have wondered why you didn't see any Tatum highlights in the section above despite his 31/12/7 performance. Listen, I'm just going by what the man said himself

I can't sit here and tell you 9-25 (3-12) is a good shooting performance. I can't tell you that 4 TOs is good or Tatum's -8 in his 41 minutes. The stat line looks dominant, but this really wasn't one of Tatum's better games, and that's OK. If this type of production is what he looks like when he kind of stinks, something tells me that's a pretty good sign.

- What was with Grant only played 6 minutes? That was weird. It's not like he was bad in his short stint, was this just a case of the guys on the floor were playing well enough that Joe just let it ride? Rob only played 25 minutes so the Celts did go "small" for long stretches of this game, but that usually includes Grant. 

Is his elbow fucked up or something? I just found that to be very strange. No Mike Muscala minutes either, or Blake Griffin so was this just because last night was the first game back or what?

- I don't think you need me to tell you that allowing 138 points is way too many. The Celts did not have a quarter where they held the Pacers to under 27 points, they gave up 28 in the fourth and the Pacers finished with 52/44% splits and 22 3PM. Given the entire Celts roster was available, there's no real excuse for being so poor defensively. Yeah it was awesome watching them score 140, but's going to come and go. This team has to be able to rely on their defense, and I did not see too much defense being played in this game,

- It's pretty crazy that a team can score that many points, make 22 3PM, and have a player do this

and the Celts STILL win. I mean that has to be so deflating. It just goes to show how hard it is to actually beat this team. You can have legit career nights and make 22 3PM and still come up short. That's crazy.

- I'm counting the bucket the Celts allowed with 1.8 seconds left in the 2nd quarter, so this was yet another game in which the Celts gave up 2 buzzer beating buckets to end a frame. I need someone to explain to me how they are the worst defensive team on the planet when it comes to last possession shots. They all go in. Every last one of them and I do not get it. 

- I speak for all of us when I say that Scal needs to chill the fuck out every time a Celtics player hits the floor. I thought we had a Gordon Hayward situation with Tatum's wrist when he fell based on Scal's reaction live. Look, I love Scal and like him on the broadcast, but this shit has to stop. My heart can only take so much.

- Didn't exactly love Hauser making a 4th quarter 3 to put the Celts up 9, only to then immediately give up a 14-3 run to undo all that hard work early in the 4th. The Celts really struggled to get that final stop and score for much of the 4th and OT, and that's where the lack of defense came up. I was waiting and waiting and waiting for them to say enough of the bullshit and lock in, and that never really happened.

The Ugly

- I don't ask for much. I simply ask that at the end of a close game, the best players on this team do the exact opposite of what we saw them do in the final 2 minutes of last night's game.

It started with Jaylen missing 2 of his 3 FTA. Then came Tatum's blown layup 

Then came Tatum's brutal turnover

Then came Brown's brutal turnover

I mean what the hell is this? Jesus Christ. I'd be willing to overlook this if this was the first time this shit has happened, but that's not true. Late game decision making is still an issue for the two best players on the team and that's not great.

With Tatum's turnover, I have no idea what he saw or what he was trying to do. With Jaylen's, I would say it was a good idea but horrific execution. The Celts had a break and an advantage, Jaylen just ran the worst fastbreak of all time. 

It goes without saying that over the next 3 months, the Celts are going to need their two best players to come through and show up in these end of game situations, so we cannot have both completely shitting their pants at the same time. That was terrible.

- 15 TOs that led to 17 points. The Celts contiue to find themselves in these close games because they can't stop committing live ball turnovers. In fact, the first 8 points the Pacers scored in this game were ALL off turnovers. Lazy passing, bizarre decision making, it was clear this team was rusty early (7 first quarter TOs) but holy shit clean it up.

In the end? A win is a win and those are what we need right now. A strong start out of the break could not be more important, so kicking things off with a win is pretty damn good. Tomorrow night against the Sixers is going to be even bigger, and the Celts can take the season series with a win. Find a way to play some defense and take care of the ball and they should be just fine.