Defense Redeems Itself With Bounce-Back Win Over Indy
With the sour taste of Sunday night’s 108-107 loss to the Indiana Pacers still lingering in their mouths, the Boston Celtics entered Tuesday night’s rematch at Bankers Life Field House hungry for redemption. The road on which they traveled to reach their goal wasn’t pretty, but the end result came in the sweetest of fashions.
The Celtics trailed Indiana by 17 points with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, before suddenly turning a corner on both ends of the court. Led by the 22-year-old tandem of veteran Jayson Tatum and rookie Payton Pritchard, the Celtics turned an 88-71 deficit into a 109-100 lead, before eventually walking away with a 116-111 victory.
“We played with a little bit of desperation since we were down 17 and didn't want to go out like that,” said Jaylen Brown, who finished with 20 points and four steals. “For us to respond that way was great for this group.”
The most impressive aspect of Boston’s response came on the defensive end. The C’s had been trending in a troublesome direction on that side of the court, after allowing 26 points in the first quarter, 31 in the second, and 37 in the third. However, they flipped the switch just before it was too late, outscoring the Pacers 33-17 during the final frame.
“They came out knocking us all over the place, and credit them for that,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I just thought we got a little bit more back to the way we need to play defensively. More reacting to the threat, more handsy, more aggressive on the ball, all the stuff that when we're good, we're doing well.”
On the offensive end, the C’s were doing well by riding the hot shooting hands of Tatum and Pritchard, who combined to outscored Indy, 19-17 during the final 12 minutes of action.
Tatum, who tallied a game-high 27 points, felt particularly redeemed from the effort after missing the potential game-winning shot Sunday night.
“I was just trying to be more aggressive, make the right play, whatever it was, just help us make sure that we win,” the fourth-year wing stated. “We didn’t do that last game, just trying to make up for it.”
Pritchard also impressed with his decision-making ability, amassing 10 points, five rebounds and a team-high-tying five assists.
“He makes the right play,” Stevens said of the rookie point guard, who played nearly the entire fourth quarter. “He’s deceptive, so he can get in and use his body to finish as we saw on a couple of occasions. He’s a guy that knows how to play.”
While Tatum and Pritchard got the offense going for Boston’s late-game run, it was the team defense that made the biggest impact in the end. Indiana nearly pulled off another upsetting finish after pulling within two points of the Celtics with less than 30 seconds remaining. However, Brown and Marcus Smart saved the day with a pair of late steals to seal the victory.
“We're an organization and a team that wants to hang our hat on the defensive side of the floor, and the fourth quarter, I felt like we did a pretty good job and did enough to win,” said Brown. “We have a lot of room to grow so we want to continue to build on it and look forward to being great on a back-to-back going against Memphis (Wednesday night at home). I'm excited. That was a good win for us, it was our first road win. I'm looking forward to the next one.”