Boston Celtics

Celtics-Pacers takeaways: C's narrowly avoid spoiling historic first half

The Celtics scored a season-high 81 first-half points but nearly blew a 20-point lead.

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Three Key Storylines

  • Derrick White picks up where he left off
  • Pacers have no answer for Jayson Tatum
  • Rebounding woes nearly cost Celtics

The fifth and final regular-season matchup between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers didn't disappoint.

The Eastern Conference foes entered Tuesday night's showdown with two wins apiece in the season series. They played five games against one another due to their meeting in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament, in which the Pacers knocked the C's out of contention.

On Tuesday though, the Celtics won the tiebreaker in thrilling fashion. They erupted for a season-high 81 points in the first half -- four shy of the franchise record. The Pacers responded by erasing a 20-point deficit and taking a brief lead in the third. Boston recovered in the tightly contested final frame, holding on to treat the TD Garden crowd to a 129-124 victory.

Jayson Tatum (30 points), Jaylen Brown (25 points), and Derrick White (24 points) led the C's in the scoring column as all five starters scored in double figures. For Indiana, it was ex-Celtic Aaron Nesmith (26 points) and the newly acquired Pascal Siakam (23 points) leading the way.

Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis notched 17 points and 12 rebounds in his return from a left ankle sprain. Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton scored 13 points and dished 10 assists in his second game played since suffering a hamstring injury against Boston on Jan. 8. He exited late in the third quarter due to his minutes restriction.

The Celtics are now 7-2 on the second night of back-to-backs this season. They'll return to action Thursday night when they welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to TD Garden. Before we look ahead to that matchup, here are our quick takeaways from Tuesday's game.

Derrick White picks up where he left off

White entered the fourth quarter of Monday's game vs. the New Orleans Pelicans in the midst of a terrible shooting slump. Since then, he's been sensational.

The C's guard played the hero with 13 fourth-quarter points in the win over New Orleans and didn't miss a beat in Tuesday's matchup. He dropped 15 points in the first quarter vs. Indiana on 6-of-9 shooting (3-4 3-PT), totaling 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting (6-8 3-PT) over those two frames.

White also made his 600th career 3-pointer at the 0:49 mark in the first quarter.

While his scoring didn't continue at the same pace in the second half, White still made his presence felt when it mattered most. His clutch play continued on both ends of the floor.

This time, his signature fourth-quarter moment was a key block on what could have been the game-tying 3-pointer.

For the second consecutive night, White was the difference-maker for Boston.

Pacers have no answer for Jayson Tatum

Four of Tatum's best offensive performances this season have come against Indiana. In all four of his games played with the Pacers, he has scored at least 30 points -- 30 on Nov. 1, 32 on Dec. 4, 38 on Jan. 6, and now 30 on Jan. 30.

The five-time All-Star dropped 19 of his 30 points in the second quarter. He finished the first half an almost-perfect 10-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-5 from 3-point range.

Along with White, Tatum made winning plays on both ends to stave off the Pacers in crunch time. He finished with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting (4-9 3-PT), seven rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and just like White he added a critical block with the game on the line.

Rebounding woes nearly cost C's

The Celtics' historic 81-point first half came despite them getting crushed on the glass.

Indiana had 12 offensive rebounds to Boston's two in the first half, resulting in an 18-2 advantage in second-chance points. That trend continued for the remainder of the night as the Pacers finished with 19 offensive boards to the Celtics' seven and dominated the second-chance points battle, 31-6.

With the C's struggling to make shots in the second half, the clear discrepancy on the glass helped the Pacers erase a 20-point deficit and turn what should have been a blowout into a nail-biter. Ironically, it was exactly the kind of challenge Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said he was hoping for.

The Celtics and Pacers entered Tuesday's matchup fourth and 23rd in the league in rebounding, respectively. This game was an anomaly as Indiana outrebounded Boston, 50-40.

Rebounding shouldn't be a major issue for the Celtics going forward -- they also didn't have big men Al Horford and Luke Kornet on Tuesday due to injuries -- but the third-quarter struggles remain a concern. They were outscored 37-25 as they watched their 20-point lead disappear in the frame. They're now 13-10 in games they've lost the third quarter this season.

Fortunately for them, Tuesday's effort added a tally to the win column.

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