Using a big run to erase a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, the Boston Celtics took a 2-0 series lead over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night with a 99-91 Game 2 home victory. It was definitely a defensive game, but nowhere near the 84-74 slugfest the teams played in the opener on Saturday.
Boston was led by Kyrie Irving, who scored a game-high 37 points on 15-for-26 shooting, including 6-for-10 3-pointers, while handing out seven assists. Jayson Tatum added 26 points, including some clutch late buckets to help seal the win for Boston.
Indiana had four players in double figures, led by Bojan Bojanovic’s 23 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting, but the Pacers once again struggled to put the ball in the basket when it mattered most.
Here are a few takeaways from Boston’s Game 2 win.
Kyrie, Kyrie, Kyrie
Irving is one of the best scorers in the NBA, and his full arsenal was on display during Wednesday’s Game 2. Irving had pretty much every facet of his offensive game working, hitting 3-pointers, mid-range pull-ups, and finishing at the rim. With his team trailing by four in the fourth quarter, Irving checked in at the 7:35 mark and proceeded to knock down two 3-pointers to give Boston the lead and all the momentum.
Big plays by Tatum
The Pacers wisely began to force the ball out of Irving’s hands late, which left it up to other Celtics to step up and close out the game. Tatum answered the bell, hitting a huge corner 3 in transition to give the Celtics the lead, then finding Gordon Hayward under the basket for a wide-open layup to make it a 3-point game with 12.1 seconds left to play. He also sealed the win with a soaring and-one dunk to give Boston a 2-0 series lead. There’s been some talk about Tatum’s progression being stymied a bit this season, but his performance late in Game 2 shows he’s capable of being a big-time playoff presence for Boston.
After struggling offensively for much of Game 1, the Pacers looked much better on Wednesday night. But, when crunch time hit in the fourth quarter and Boston ramped up its defensive intensity, Indiana simply couldn’t buy a bucket. Most of their looks were well defended, but they went freezing cold as the Celtics went on a 16-0 run, during which they took a late fourth-quarter lead. Eventually the run was broken by a Wesley Matthews 3-pointer, but never was Victor Oladipo’s absence more noticeable than when the Pacers desperately needed a bucket down the stretch, and seemingly had nowhere to turn.
Don’t sleep on Bojan
He may not be a household name, but Bojan Bogdanovic has had an excellent year for the Pacers. He was already one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA, but was thrust into much more of a playmaking role as Indiana’s leading scorer following the Oladipo injury. He was fantastic on Wednesday night, nearly pushing the Pacers to victory with two big 3-pointers late in the fourth, but ultimately they fell short.