Celtics beat Pacers by 51 points: 8 takeaways from a dominant win

Celtics

The Celtics’ offense is absolutely humming.

Celtics Pacers
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum looks to pass while pressured by Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

COMMENTARY

The Celtics decimated the Pacers on Wednesday, pulling away early and never giving a centimeter en route to a 155-101 victory.

Here are the takeaways.

1. This was the Celtics’ second straight massive victory over an undermanned, mediocre opponent after they blasted the Wizards on Monday. The Pacers were without Tyrese Haliburton, which certainly played a role.

But for the second game in a row, the Celtics just looked like they were in a different league than their opponent. Jayson Tatum scored 30 points and made it look easy. Derrick White and Jrue Holiday scored 18 and 15 points respectively, and both missed just three shots. Kristaps Porzingis took just seven shots and was +27 in his minutes.

The Celtics are much better than bad teams. Admittedly, last year’s team started hot and cooled off a bit, but last year’s team didn’t have four All-Star caliber starters and two potential All-Defensive selections at the two guards positions. Bad teams can pick up wins against good teams when they can get hot and hide their flaws, and the Celtics aren’t immune from an opposing team getting hot, but hiding your flaws is pretty hard against this group.

2. The Celtics recorded their third-biggest win since 2000. Their second-biggest win was a 53-point blowout against the Kings last year. Their biggest? A 58-point beatdown against the Bulls in 2018.

After dropping 44 points in the first quarter, the Celtics were up to 75 by halftime. If they had gone scoreless in the fourth quarter, they still would have won by nine. Instead, their bench put together the biggest quarter of the game with 46 and won by 51.

3. At a certain point in a blowout, you stop watching the basketball quite so closely and you start watching for statistical oddities.

For NBC Sports Boston’s Brian Scalabrine, the oddity was the number of players who dropped double figures. Each of the starters made it comfortably. Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard tacked on two more. Finally, late in the fourth quarter, Dalano Banton made a pair of free throws to bring the Celtics’ total to eight. It’s hard to imagine a team losing a game when eight players score in double figures.

On our end, the oddities included whether they could reach 75 in the first half and 150 total (they could, and they could), whether Hauser would miss a 3-pointer (he did, eventually) and whether Jayson Tatum would get to 30 (he did).

4. From an eye-test perspective, Derrick White looks more comfortable right now than he has at any other point in a Celtics uniform (and maybe in an NBA uniform). On Wednesday, he shot 7-for-10 from the field, dropping 18 hyper-efficient points, and he dished out four assists.

In San Antonio, White’s 3-point percentage was always lower than you would think when you watched him shoot, and the Celtics’ theory in acquiring him was that playing next to Tatum and Brown would help.

It certainly has. On Wednesday, he buried four 3-pointers (three in the first quarter as the Celtics built their big lead), and three of them were pull-ups. He looks incredibly comfortable as a shooter, which — once again — hammers home the obvious question: How on earth are you supposed to stop this Celtics team?

5. Jrue Holiday started the game with a post up and knocked down two 3-pointers in the first quarter, and for a moment, it looked like we might get his first big offensive game in a Celtics uniform.

Instead, Holiday settled for 15 efficient points and some 15 minutes of rest to end the game.

“First play of the game was for me, and I had a post up,” Holiday told reporters after the game. “I could’ve found someone. But with the talent that we have, who are you going to guard? …

“We’ve got everything, right? We’re in the paint, we have the mid-range, and we have the three. I feel like that threat makes us even harder to guard. … I feel like we have a lot of bases covered.”

6. After a shaky fourth quarter against the Wizards, the Celtics’ bench was much better against the Pacers. The head of the snake was Pritchard, who scored 15 points and led the team with nine assists — a nice bounce-back after a really poor performance. But everyone else looked good as well — Hauser caught fire after a slow start to the year, Oshae Brissett and Lamar Stevens played hard, and Dalano Banton finished some crafty baskets around the hoop.

One intriguing difference: With the game in hand, Joe Mazzulla staggered the exit of the stars in the third quarter rather than having them exit en masse to start the fourth like he did against the Wizards. That seemed to help the Celtics’ bench unit gain a comfort level before they had to carry the game home on their own.

7. Aaron Nesmith still plays incredibly hard in ways that make you worry about his general health and well-being. But he seems to have caught on with the Pacers — Rick Carlisle praised him before the game — which is nice for a player who did not land in a great player-development situation when he was drafted by the Celtics.

8. The wildest thing about watching Wednesday’s game was that the Pacers genuinely tried for much of the game. The Celtics played well, but the talent gap was just enormous. The Pacers could do nothing about Brown when he cut with Porzingis diming him from the top of the key. They could do nothing about Hauser floating to open space. They could do nothing about White pulling up from deep. They could do nothing about Tatum (full stop).

The Celtics are humming. They will look to continue their early-season run against the Nets on Saturday at 8 p.m.


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