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How Jaylen Brown guided Celtics to 2-0 series lead in Eastern Conference finals over Pacers: 4 takeaways


How Jaylen Brown guided Celtics to 2-0 series lead in Eastern Conference finals over Pacers: 4 takeaways

By Eric Nehm, Jay King, Jared Weiss, James Boyd and Hunter Patterson

Jaylen Brown tied his playoff career high with 40 points to go along with five rebounds and two assists to lead the Boston Celtics to a 126-110 win over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. Brown, Derrick White (23) and Jayson Tatum (23) combined for 86 of Boston’s 126 points as the Celtics now lead the series 2-0.

Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists as Tyrese Haliburton exited in the fourth quarter with left leg soreness after 28 minutes of action. Indiana shot 52.4 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point range, but it wasn’t enough to outdo Boston, which shot 53.4 percent and 40.5 percent from 3.

The Pacers now head back to Indiana without a win in the series, though they began last round against the New York Knicks in a two-game hole before coming back to win the series in seven games.

Boston lost only two games during these playoffs, with no series extending past five games.

Game 3 is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET in Indiana.

Boston taps into physicality

The Celtics are often viewed as a finesse team, but tapped into their size and physicality in Game 2. They racked up 13 offensive rebounds, including 10 in the first half. They outscored the Pacers 54-34 in the paint and 18-13 in second-chance points.

The knock on Boston has long been how much time the team spends on the perimeter, sometimes at the expense of putting pressure on the rim, but the Celtics often played inside-out in this one. In this series, they should. The Celtics’ guards are big. Their wings are big.

They have a significant muscle advantage at several positions in this series, especially on the perimeter. And they took advantage of it in Game 2. Brown got downhill repeatedly. Jrue Holiday and White, guarded by Indiana’s smaller backcourt, were both able to rack up big, efficient stat lines.

Led by Brown, the Celtics could get where they wanted on the court. Boston ran away with Game 2 because the Pacers couldn’t get any stops.

To make this a series in Indiana, the Pacers will need to do a better job providing resistance against the Celtics’ physicality. Haliburton’s injury status also looms as a big factor. — Jay King, Celtics beat writer

Celtics take control over chaos

The Pacers offense is chaotic, forcing the Celtics defense to make countless reads and decisions throughout the night. It took Boston some time to get acclimated, but the Celtics looked like they had control over the chaos in Game 2.

Haliburton’s injury took the wind out of Indiana’s sails, but the Pacers rarely seemed to have the Celtics fighting to keep up with the run of play.

Brown was electric scoring the ball, but it was the playmaking from Holiday and White that kept Boston’s offense flowing when Brown wasn’t hitting brilliant shots. As this series goes on, it’s apparent that Boston can count on its guards to keep the offense running all night.

With Oshae Brissett giving some solid minutes for the injured Luke Kornet, the second unit was no longer a defensive sieve. If Boston’s bench can hold up well, the Celtics are going to be in great shape heading back to Indianapolis. — Jared Weiss, Celtics beat writer

Indiana falls victim to regular lapses

Going up against the league’s best team, the Pacers knew that they were going to need to be nearly perfect to somehow upset the Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals. On Thursday, the Pacers were far from perfect and regularly made lapses that just can’t occur in the postseason.

In the first half, the Celtics grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and scored 12 second-chance points. In the third quarter, the Pacers failed to get matched up multiple times on defense and gave up easy transition buckets.

In the fourth quarter, T.J. McConnell rocketed a pass to teammate Isaiah Jackson from five feet away and the ball flew into the air for a Celtics steal. The Celtics deployed rarely-used forward Brissett as a center and won the nine minutes he played by 15 points as the Pacers struggled to find an answer for the unusual small ball look.

But while all of those things were serious problems in Game 2, they pale in comparison to Haliburton exiting the game. If Haliburton has seriously re-aggravated the left hamstring injury that forced him to miss 10 games in the middle of January, the Pacers are going to struggle to compete with the Celtics in this series. — Eric Nehm, senior NBA writer

Myles Turner threw his hands up in frustration. The Pacers center couldn’t believe that he’d been whistled for his third foul with 4:11 left in the second quarter.

Turner begged Indiana coach Rick Carlisle to challenge what looked like a questionable call when Turner and Celtics center Al Horford collided near the baseline, but instead, Carlisle turned to his bench and asked Isaiah Jackson to sub in for Turner.

When Turner finally took a seat on the sideline, his annoyance was written all over his face as he vented to his teammates and assistant coaches.

That moment foreshadowed a performance that Turner would probably like to forget. After scoring 18 of his 23 points in the first half of Game 1, he went scoreless in the first half of Game 2.

Turner eventually got on the board with a turnaround jumper midway through the third quarter that cut Boston’s lead to four points, but Indiana was unable to overcome Turner’s rare off night in these playoffs.

Turner entered Thursday averaging 17.9 points while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 47.3 percent on 3-pointers through the Pacers’ first 14 playoff games. He finished Game 2 with eight points and four turnovers in 24 minutes.

Of all the players on the Pacers’ roster, Turner is the last one who needs to be reminded of how special this run is. As the team’s longest-tenured player, it took Turner three years to get back to the playoffs, and it wasn’t until his sixth playoff appearance this season that he advanced past the first round.

He’ll need to play a lot better in Game 3 if the Pacers hope to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole, especially if Haliburton is still bothered by the left leg soreness that forced him to exit Thursday’s game. — James Boyd, staff writer

Required reading

(Photo: Brian Babineau / NBAE via Getty Images)

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