Five takeaways from Celtics' win over Pacers
Five takeaways from C’s win over Pacers: Streaking on home
BOSTON – The Celtics have won four in a row and are clearly a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference.
And yet when you talk with players, there’s a sense that as good as they feel about their play, they know there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
They will take that mindset into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team Boston took down to the wire last month before losing 99-96.
That was the first time the Celtics held an opponent to less than 100 points and it didn’t result in a Boston victory.
And don’t think for a minute the Celtics aren’t thinking about tonight’s game as an opportunity for redemption for a loss they felt they should not have suffered.
“I want payback,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “We’re going to go and play as hard as we can. No excuses; I’m ready for the game.”
Here are five takeaways from Boston’s win at Indiana on Thursday night.
ISAIAH THE PASSER
We have seen how prolific a scorer Thomas has developed into this season. But on Thursday, he showed a much-improved sense of still being an impact performer without forcing the issue as a scorer. Indiana made keeping the ball out of his hands as much as possible, a priority in the first half. And Thomas did what all good point guards do – he made them pay. At the half, Thomas had eight assists. He only tallied one more in the second half, but got it going in the second half to finish with 28 points (14 coming in the fourth quarter) along with nine assists.
BRADLEY BALANCING ACT
Avery Bradley’s defensive credentials are well established throughout the NBA. But he knows the Celtics now count on him to carry a heavier offensive load. Being an effective player at both ends of the floor is vital not only to Bradley’s growth but also to Boston’s chances at having the kind of season they envision. Bradley excelled at both on Thursday with some impressive defense on Paul George (19 points, 5-for-16 shooting) in addition to chipping in with 16 points of his own.
He will continue to have his critics who question whether he can shoot well enough at this level. But one thing that is very clear: Smart makes an impact when it comes to making winning plays. Boston went on a 17-0 run in the second quarter against the Pacers in large part because of Smart’s ability to run the offense while still providing a solid presence as a defender. That’s why despite his struggles, you can ink him in for playing minutes that range in the high-20s to low-30s per game.
Chemistry is such a big deal when it comes to winning in the NBA. We’re starting to see Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas get on the same page when it comes to pairing their skills together to affect winning. Down the stretch against Indiana, Thomas had his usual array of big shots but Horford also made his presence felt with some inside scoring and some hustle plays that collectively delivered the kind of 1-2 punch in the fourth that the Celtics will need going forward.
STARTING FIVE GETTING STRONGER
With the Celtics’ preferred starting five healthy for the past four games, it’s clear why Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ brass were so excited about this group and its potential. While they are not quite on the same level as the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, they are trending in the right direction with a strong defense, balanced offense and some clutch play down the stretch that has propelled them to victory.