Stars, Studs and Duds: Tatum and Hayward too much for Pacers


INDIANAPOLIS -- Jayson Tatum saw Doug McDermott in front of him and did what you might expect - he beat him off the dribble and got into the lane where he was fouled.

Bojan Bogdanovic?

Yup. You can get some of this, too.

It didn’t matter who the Indiana Pacers assigned to Tatum.

Tatum made any matchup a mismatch over and over again, which would be among the many things that went Boston’s way in their 117-97 win over the Pacers.

With the win, Boston (48-32) won the head-to-head series over the Pacers (47-33) and maybe just as important, all but secured home-court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs.

Either one Celtics win or another Indiana loss in the final two games of the regular season and Boston will secure no worse than the No. 4 seed in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Celtics are home against the Orlando Magic on Sunday and visit the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The Pacers host Brooklyn on Sunday and play the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday. 

And while it remains a long shot, there’s a chance that the Celtics might even climb as high as No. 3 with the Sixers’ recent struggles.

Tatum’s ability to attack the paint off the dribble was indeed a problem most of the night for Indiana.

And when they showed just a little too much respect to Tatum’s off-the-dribble game, he made them pay from 3-point range like the 3-pointer he made in the third quarter that put Boston ahead 74-60, their largest lead of the game up to that point.

The Pacers had a spurt here and there, but the Celtics’ control of the game was never in question.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the 20-point win over the Pacers.

Jayson Tatum: The tone of this game was set by Tatum’s ability to attack off the dribble most of the night, in addition to doing a solid job defensively. He would finish with a strong 22 points on 9-for-19 shooting along with seven rebounds for Boston.

Gordon Hayward: It was the perfect homecoming for Hayward, an Indiana native who starred at nearby Butler University. He continues to play some of his best basketball of late, delivering an impressive 21 points on a perfect 9-for-9 shooting night - and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line - to pace the Celtics.

Myles Turner: The Pacers crumbled in every sense of the word, but Myles Turner was one of the few steady forces most of the game. He would finish with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Kyrie Irving:
So many other Celtics had a better game going than Irving, and to his credit, he didn’t force the action. That said, he still finished with an impressive stat line of 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting with six assists.

Domantas Sabonis: He got off to a wicked fast start, scoring eight points in the first four minutes he was on the floor. But that would be the bulk of his impact as he finished with 12 points total on 6-for-10 shooting to go with six rebounds and three assists off the bench.

Al Horford: Strong play defensively was his biggest contribution. But Horford did some nice things offensively as well, tallying 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting along with seven rebounds in 27 minutes.

Aron Baynes: He has been a double-double machine since entering the Celtics starting lineup. He would tally 11 points and 11 rebounds on Friday for his third double-double of the season, all coming in Boston’s last five games.

Pacers' energy: In a game that meant everything to this franchise this season, Indiana looked like a spilled milkshake in July - just a big ol’ puddle of uselessness. Boston played with great force, for sure.  But the lack of pushback on the Pacers’ part has to be disturbing when you consider this is the same Celtics team they will likely face in about a week in the playoffs.

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