Celtics-Pacers takeaways: The Jays propel C's in bounceback win


The Boston Celtics snapped their two-game skid with a hard-fought win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, 128-123.

It was hardly a cakewalk for the C's against the 13th-place Pacers at TD Garden. Despite missing several key players, Indiana hit shot after shot against Boston's top-ranked defense and kept it close until the final buzzer.

Celtics' most likely first-round playoff opponents coming into focus

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown helped stave off the Pacers with a combined 63 points. All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, as did Derrick White who dropped 13 points off the bench.

Tyrese Haliburton starred for the Pacers with 30 points (10-11 FG, 6-6 3-PT) but he fouled out of the game with 8:13 left in the fourth quarter. Oshae Brissett and Jalen Smith added 17 points apiece.

Here are three instant takeaways from the C's win as they improve to 48-30 with four games left in the regular season. They currently sit 1.5 games behind the top-seeded Miami Heat and a half-game behind the second-place Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings.

Jaylen Brown sparks the Celtics' offense

Death, taxes, and Jaylen Brown dominating the first quarter. It's been a trend throughout the season and it continued in Friday night's showdown.

Brown led the team with 14 first-quarter points, marking the ninth time he's scored more than 10 points in the first frame this season. It's the seventh game in which he's scored 14 or more in the quarter.

For the season, Brown is averaging 7.2 first-quarter points per game. He ranks 12th in the NBA in that category.

Brown kept his foot on the gas and finished with a team-high 32 points. In doing so, he set a career-high with eight straight games of at least 25 in the scoring column. He also led the team with seven assists on the night.

Jayson Tatum also helped lead the C's to victory with 31 points and six assists. It's the eighth time this season the Jays have both scored 30 or more in the same game.

Celtics defense misses Robert Williams

Missing games due to injury may actually be helping Robert Williams' Defensive Player of the Year case. Over their last three games without the big man, the Celtics simply haven't looked like the elite defensive unit they've been all season long.

They had no answer for the Pacers' offensive attack as they allowed Indiana to shoot 47.2% (17-36) from long range and 51.9% from the floor. That's without Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and several others sidelined due to injury. Even without Haliburton for most of the fourth quarter, the shorthanded Pacers made the C's sweat out the final minutes.

Head coach Ime Udoka went with Daniel Theis alongside Al Horford in the starting lineup to make up for Williams' absence. The decision may have backfired as Indiana's shooters had a field day against Boston's two-big lineup. That's a situation Udoka will need to figure out before the postseason begins.

C's still have top seed in sight

And just like that, we're down to four games remaining in the Celtics' regular season.

Friday night's win puts them only a half-game out of the No. 2 seed in the East following Milwaukee's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. They trail the first-place Heat, who they lost to on Wednesday, by 1.5 games.

The games remaining on the C's schedule are:

vs. Washington Wizards, Sunday, April 3, 1 p.m. ET

at Chicago Bulls, Wednesday, April 6, 8 p.m. ET.

at Milwaukee Bucks, Thursday, April 7, 7:30 p.m. ET.

at Memphis Grizzlies, Sunday, April 10, TBD

That Bucks game could settle who ends up with the No. 2 seed, though both teams should be careful what they wish for as the Brooklyn Nets could end up being their first-round matchup.

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