Boston’s Overtime Win vs. Indy was Ugly, But Essential

After suffering several close losses throughout the first half of the season, it was time for the Boston Celtics to grind out a crunch-time victory of their own Monday night.

Trailing the Indiana Pacers 89-85 with 35 seconds left in regulation, Boston rattled off four straight points – including a game-tying mid-range jumper from Jayson Tatum with 1.8 seconds remaining – to send the game into overtime before gutting out a 101-98 win at TD Garden.

The victory came four days after Tatum hit an eerily similar game-tying jumper with 2.2 seconds remaining against the New York Knicks, only to have R.J. Barrett bank in a miracle game-winner at the buzzer. So for him, it was extra satisfying to help his team seal the deal Monday night.

“It felt great,” he said of the win. “I feel like that one would’ve hurt had we lost. But throughout the course of the season, it feels good to figure games out like that when we’re not shooting the ball well, and I had a lot of turnovers, but just figuring it out and cleaning stuff up later. But most importantly, we were just telling ourselves, just find a way to win this game.”

As Tatum indicated, it was an ugly offensive game, and for both teams. The Celtics and Pacers both shot under 40 percent from the field and under 30 percent from the 3-point line. There were also turnovers aplenty, as Indiana committed 17, while Boston committed 20.

However, the Celtics tightened up their offense down the stretch and went turnover-free during the final 7:26 of action, including a perfect overtime period.

“As much as we weren't sharp in certain areas tonight, I think the overtime and fourth quarter when we needed to get stops, that was some of our sharpest execution on both sides of the ball,” said head coach Ime Udoka. “I think offensively, we got the shots we wanted in the overtime and we really locked in, held them to late shot-clock situations several times in overtime. So I felt good about that execution and we've been in enough of these tight games to start seeing improvements.”

Boston entered Monday night with a 2-11 record in games decided by five points or less. Bothered by their lack of success in close games, the Celtics have been trying to reverse the trend in their favor. By beating the Pacers in such a manner, it felt like “the first step in the right direction,” according to Tatum.

“I think more so just in the fashion that we did it: we didn't make shots, we didn't necessarily play well but everybody gave it their all and just kind of toughed it out,” Tatum said. “The message towards the end of the game was just 'Figure it out. Whatever we got to do, figure it out.' It felt like we needed to win this game, just for our growth as a team.”

Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Robert Williams were the three most instrumental players in bringing home the win, as they each logged monster stat lines while playing 41-plus minutes apiece.

Brown led the charge with a game-high 26 points, a career-high 15 rebounds, and a team-high six assists in 44 minutes. Tatum added 24 points, 12 rebounds, and shot 10-of-11 from the free-throw line in 42 minutes. And Williams stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 12 rebounds (six on each end), four steals, and three blocks in just under 42 minutes.

Rob Williams made the biggest defensive play of the night with 2:08 left in overtime when he emphatically swatted Oshae Brissett’s game-tying layup, which helped to set up a Grant Williams 3-pointer in transition that put the Celtics on top, 96-91.

“I really just feel great for my teammates,” Williams said of how he and his peers gutted out the win collectively. “I can honestly say we stayed together until the end of the game. We went through adversity, a couple arguments within the team, but that burst in overtime, we held it together.”

The Celtics had trouble holding it together in tight games throughout the first half of the season, but they’re hoping to turn a page now as they enter the second half. Even though it was imperfect and downright ugly at times, the grind-it-out nature of Monday night’s win was exactly the type of effort that they needed to take a step in the right direction.


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