Coming off of a physical, defensive Game 1 victory, Gordon Hayward and the Boston Celtics entered Game 2 expecting more of the same as they looked to take care of their home floor before the series shifted to Indiana.
“[Indiana] set the tone for both halves,” coach Brad Stevens said. “They were just really good and we had to just battle. I credit our guys. I felt like in the end of the first we were flying off screens, guarding them, and we still weren’t getting stops.”
Aron Baynes threw down for the first score of the game 16 seconds into the first for Boston. The Celtics put together an impressive run 10-4 after the first two minutes. However, a pair of quick threes by the Pacers started a 16-3 run that would see them take a 20-13 lead.
Battling back from an eight-point deficit, Boston’s Gordon Hayward drained a three from 28 feet for his first points of the game to bring the Cs back within two points with 1:48 remaining in the first quarter. After a Tyreke Evans missed 3-pointer and a Hayward defensive rebound, Boston’s point guard Terry Rozier made a two point shot to tie the game at 27.
In the final minute of the quarter, the Pacers made two baskets to close out the quarter with a 33-29 lead.
Boston responded in the second quarter, outscoring the Pacers 23-17. Indiana started the second quarter with two buckets in-a-row, giving them an eight-point lead. Tatum and Irving carried the Celtics through much of the second quarter to give them a 52-50 lead at halftime.
The third quarter was the most difficult for the Cs as they were outscored 29-16, putting them in a hole with just one quarter to play. Their defense, which had been Boston’s strong suit in the second quarter and in all of game one, lapsed in the third quarter, resulting in an 11-points Pacers’ lead with 12 minutes remaining in Game 2.
But Boston, as experienced as they are in the playoffs, found another gear to claw their way back into the game. The Celtics offense finally got hot and scored 31 points, and the defense matched the offense’s intensity. The same defense that allowed 33 points in the first quarter and 29 in the third, only allowed 12 points in the final quarter of play.
“I thought our defense in the last five minutes was excellent, and then certainly in the last few possessions,” Stevens said. “We had a couple of empty possessions before that when they were up two, came back down and got stops and kept playing.”
Horford made a 6-foot two point shot 15 seconds into the quarter to get the comeback started. Tyreke Evans responded with three points of his own for Indiana. The Celtics then went on an 8-0 run bringing the deficit to four points with over seven minutes remaining. Irving made three-straight baskets including two 3-pointers and one 10-foot pullup jump shot, and the Cs reclaimed the lead 86-82.
The Pacers would answer and retake the lead at 88-87, but Gordon Hayward helped close out the victory with six points in the final three minutes. After losing the lead, Hayward immediately responded with a mid-range jumper off of a Kyrie Irving feed to go up 89-88.
On the next drive, Indiana’s Bojan Bogdanovic made a contested 26-foot step back jump shot for three. With 56.9 seconds remaining, and down 91-89, Boston’s Jaylen Brown grabbed a defensive board and took it all the way across half court and up to the basket. Before shooting himself, he kicked the rock out to Tatum. With a defender in his face, Tatum drained a 24-foot 3-pointer to give the Cs the 92-91 lead with 50.8 seconds left.
The final minute was nothing but Pacers’ chaos and Celtics triumph. Tatum caught a pass and took it just inside Indiana’s three-point line. Attracting defenders, he passed the ball to a wide open Hayward underneath the basket. G capitalized for two points and put the Celtics in a great position, up three with 12 seconds to play.
Several Pacers’ miscues, a Jayson Tatum finish, and a pair of Hayward free throws iced the game, giving the Celtics a 2-0 series lead.
“Every game is its own entity,” Stevens said. “You don’t think about how good you played, or how lucky you were, or anything else. You try to get it done.”
Cs point guard Kyrie Irving put together a monster performance totaling 37 points, seven assists, six rebounds and a steal. Tatum earned 26 points with four rebounds, two assists and a steal, and Gordon led the bench in scoring with 13 points.
Most importantly, Boston walked away with a 2-0 series lead as they head to Indiana, retaining homecourt advantage after the first two games of the series. Now, the focus will shift to stealing Game 3 in Indiana.
Game 3 will be played on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET and can be viewed on ABC.