The Celtics decimated the Pacers on Wednesday, pulling away early and not giving an inch en route to a 155-101 victory.
Here are the takeaways.
1. This was the Celtics’ second straight big win over an undermanned, mediocre opponent after destroying the Wizards on Monday. The Pacers were without Tyrese Haliburton, which certainly played a role.
But for the second straight game, the Celtics simply seemed to be 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, both missing just three shots. Kristaps Porzingis took just seven shots and scored +27 in his minutes.
The Celtics are much better than bad teams. Granted, 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 guard positions. Bad teams can get wins against good teams if they get hot and hide their flaws, and the Celtics aren’t immune to an opponent getting hot, but hiding your flaws is pretty hard against this group.
2. The Celtics included 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 loss to the Bulls in 2018.
After dropping 44 points in the first quarter, the Celtics were up at 75 at halftime. Had they gone scoreless in the fourth quarter, they would still have won by nine. Instead, their bench put together the biggest quarter of the match with 46 and won by 51.
3. At some point during a blowout, you stop paying close attention to the basketball and start paying attention to statistical oddities.
For Brian Scalabrine of NBC Sports Boston, the oddity was the number of players dropping double digits. Each of the entrees made it comfortable. 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 side, the oddities included whether they could reach 75 in the first half and 150 overall (they could, and they could), whether Hauser would miss a three-pointer (he eventually did), and whether Jayson Tatum would reach 30 would get. (he did).
4. From an eye-test perspective, Derrick White looks more comfortable in a Celtics uniform right now than at any other time (and maybe an NBA uniform). On Wednesday, he shot 7-for-10 from the field, dropped 18 hyper-efficient points and dished out four assists.
In San Antonio, White’s three-point percentage was always lower than you’d think from watching him shoot, and the Celtics’ theory in acquiring him was that playing alongside Tatum and Brown would help.
That is certainly the case. 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 – begs 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 about 15 minutes of rest to end the match.
“The first time I played the game was for me, and I posted,” Holiday said told reporters after the match. ‘I could have found someone. But who are you going to guard with the talent we have? …
‘We have everything, right? We’re in the paint, we’ve got the midrange and we’ve got the three. I feel like that threat makes it even harder to police us. … I feel like we covered a lot of bases.”
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 rebound after a very poor performance. But everyone else looked good, too: Hauser caught fire after a slow start to the year, Oshae Brissett and Lamar Stevens played hard and Dalano Banton finished some smart baskets around the hoop.
One intriguing difference: With the game in hand, Joe Mazzulla spread out the Stars’ exit in the third quarter instead of sending them out en masse to start the fourth, as he did against the Wizards. That seemed to help the Celtics bench unit reach a comfort level before having to carry the game home on their own.
7. Aaron Nesmith still plays incredibly hard in a way that makes you worry about his overall health and well-being. But he appears to have taken over the Pacers — Rick Carlisle praised him before the game — which is nice for a player who wasn’t put in a great player development situation when he was drafted by the Celtics.
8. The best part about watching Wednesday’s game was that the Pacers really gave their best for much of the game. The Celtics played well, but the talent gap was simply enormous. The Pacers couldn’t do anything about Brown as he cut with Porzingis dimming him from the top of the key. They couldn’t help it if Hauser floated into open space. They couldn’t help it when White appeared from deep. They couldn’t do anything about Tatum (period).
The Celtics are humming. They will look to continue their early season matchup against the Nets on Saturday at 8 p.m
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