Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Celtics 129, Pacers 124: Jayson Tatum, Derrick White make crucial blocks in final seconds to hold off Indy

The Celtics held off the Indiana Pacers in a 129-124 victory after nearly blowing a 20-point lead Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Jayson Tatum finished with a game-high 30 points on 12-of-19 from the field and 4-of-9 from deep, to go along with seven rebounds, seven assists, and two crucial blocks in the final 30 seconds.
"You have to be able to win games with your defense," coach Joe Mazzulla said.
Jaylen Brown had 25 points (9-of-15), while Derrick White added 24 points (8-of-16), and five assists to lead the C's -- as they improved to 37-11 overall and 22-2 at home.

Kristaps Porzinigis (ankle sprain) returned to the lineup from his two-game absence and finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds. Jrue Holiday also netted 17 points (6-of-8), handed out five assists and blocked three shots.

Despite it being the third time this season in which the Celtics starting-five of Holiday, White, Brown, Tatum, and Porzingis scored 17-plus points each, it was the team's defense that prevailed in the end -- which could serve as a reminder that Boston can't just rely heavily on their offense.
"It's a tough balance for us because we always talk about how the game's connected. You can't have one without the other," Mazzulla said. "But there's moments when they both have to be elite. We had really good defense down the stretch and made some winning plays."
Former Celtic Aaron Nesmith led the Pacers with 26 points, 12 rebounds while Pascal Siakam finished with 23 points and Myles Turner added 17. All-Star Tyrese Haliburton had 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting and 10 rebounds in his first game back after missing the previous five with a left hamstring strain.

Boston led by as many as 20 in the first two quarters, taking an 81-66 advantage into the break -- which was a season-high for the most points scored in a half.

The Pacers outscored the home team 37-25 in the third period, including going on a 25-10 run, to regain a lead (94-93) with 4:11 left -- before trailing 106-103 to start the final frame.

The Celtics used a 16-9 spurt through the first six-in-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter for what looked like a comfortable 10-point lead. Indiana responded with one last rally, going on 12-5 surge and were down 127-124 when White blocked Nesmith's game-tying 3-pointer. Tatum then denied Turner's offensive rebound and putback at the rim to force a shot clock violation with 28 seconds left to play.

Holiday hit a pair of free throws on the other end to extend Boston's lead. Nesmith looked to score quickly and Tatum was called for a foul with 11.2 seconds remaining as he appeared to make a clean block on the layup attempt. Mazzulla challenged the call and the foul was overturned upon review.

It was second time in as many nights Boston had to really fight for a win after batttling yet another young and hungry visting roster. On Monday, the C's were able to hold off the Pelicans -- withstanding New Orleans' late-game rally -- just a lesson in having to come up with different ways to close out your oppenants.
"We've got to be able to fight through everything," Holiday said during his postgame comments. "Fight through expectations. Fight through being up 20 and somebody having a great third quarter and finishing games. If it was easy the whole time, what's the fun in that?"
The Celtics host the rival Los Angeles Lakers (24-25) Thursday night, as TNT has the tip-off at 7:30 pm ET. 

Game Notes:

Boston hit 54% from the field, including 17-of-36 (47.2%) from deep, while the Pacers were 46.3% from the floor and 12-of-39 (30.8%) from long range. The Celtics were out-rebounded 50-40 and outscored in the paint 64-44. Indiana dished out 33 assists (eight turnovers) on 50 baskets and the C's handed out 25 dimes (12 turnovers) on 47 made shots.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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