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 career playoff high with 40 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Boston Celtics to a 126-110 victory 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 that wasn’t enough to outperform Boston, which shot 53.4 percent and 40.5 for hundred to 3 points.

The Pacers now return to Indiana winless in the series, although they began the final round against the New York Knicks with a two-game deficit before coming back to win the series in seven games.

Boston has only lost two games in these postseasons, with no series longer than five games.

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

Boston exploits physicality

The Celtics are often considered a finesse team, but they exploited 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.

Boston’s problem has long been the team’s time spent on the perimeter, sometimes at the expense of rim pressure, but the Celtics often played inside out in this one. In this series, they should. The Celtics guards are great. Their wings are large.

They have a significant muscle advantage at several positions in this series, especially on the perimeter. And they took advantage of it in the second game. Brown went down on several occasions. Jrue Holiday and White, guarded by Indiana’s smaller backcourt, both managed to rack up big, efficient stat lines.

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

To make it a series in Indiana, the Pacers will need to do a better job providing better resistance against the physicality of the Celtics. Haliburton’s injury status also appears to be a significant factor. — Jay King, Celtics writer

The Celtics take control of the chaos

The Pacers offense is chaotic, forcing the Celtics defense to make countless reads and decisions throughout the night. It took Boston a while to acclimate, but the Celtics seemed to have control of the chaos in Game 2.

Haliburton’s injury took the wind out of Indiana’s sails, but the Pacers rarely seemed to see the Celtics struggling to keep up the flow of the game.

Brown was electric scoring the ball, but it was the play of Holiday and White that kept Boston’s offense flowing when Brown wasn’t hitting brilliant shots. As this series progresses, it becomes clear that Boston can rely on its guards to keep the offense going all night.

With Oshae Brissett giving some solid minutes to the injured Luke Kornet, the second unit was no longer a defensive sieve. If the Boston bench holds up well, the Celtics will be in great shape when they return to Indianapolis. — Jared Weiss, Celtics writer

Indiana is a victim of regular failures

Facing the best team in the league, the Pacers knew they were going to have to be nearly perfect to upset the Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals. On Thursday, the Pacers were far from perfect and regularly made mistakes that simply cannot happen in the playoffs.

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

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

But while all of those things were serious problems in Game 2, they pale in comparison to Haliburton’s exit from the game. If Haliburton seriously aggravates the left hamstring injury that forced him to miss 10 games in mid-January, the Pacers will have a hard time competing with the Celtics in this series. — Eric Nehm, NBA Senior Writer

Myles Turner threw his hands up in frustration. The Pacers center couldn’t believe he was 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 s turned to his bench and asked Isaiah Jackson to replace Turner.

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

That moment foreshadowed a performance 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 finally got on the board with a turnover midway through the third quarter that cut Boston’s lead to four points, but Indiana was unable to overcome Turner’s rare night of rest during these playoffs.

Turner entered Thursday averaging 17.9 points while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 47.3 percent from 3-point range in 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 how special this run is. As the team’s longest-tenured player, it took Turner three years to return to the playoffs, and it wasn’t until his sixth playoff appearance this season that he made it past the first round.

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

Required reading

(Photo: Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

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