Celtics

Celtics

It’s official. 

The Boston Celtics are going to the playoffs following their 114-111 win over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night in Indianapolis. 

And like so many this season, this win did not come easily. 

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The Pacers rallied in the fourth quarter behind a 21-2 run to take the lead, only for the Celtics to rally back to get the win behind some key defensive stops and some clutch free throws by Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart. 

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers (39-26) with a season-high 27 points while Boston was once again led by Jayson Tatum, who topped all scorers with 30 points. 

And it was fitting for the postseason-clinching victory to come against the Pacers, who may very well be Boston’s first-round opponent if the standings stay as-is between now and the end of the regular season, which has 18 games to go.

Here are a few takeaways from the win: 

GORDON HAYWARD

Having played his college ball at Butler, just 9.5 miles away from the Pacers’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hayward looked very much at home all game. 

He had 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field, the kind of efficient scoring night that Tatum is accustomed to having in front of family and friends. 

 

With Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out, the scoring distribution for the Celtics changes in a way that puts more pressure on Hayward to be more of a primary scoring option. 

And Tuesday was Hayward once again meeting that challenge head-on, with the result a 27-point, 10-rebound, five-assist night.

Filling up the stat sheet in several categories is always appreciated, but more than the scoring is Hayward making an all-around impact, which is arguably even more important than anything he does statistically. 

JAYSON TATUM

It can’t be stressed enough just how valuable Jayson Tatum has become to the Celtics by doing what can best be described as Tatum-like things. 

He continues to pile up the points in an assortment of ways, whether it be a step-to-the-side 3-pointer or driving down the lane for a powerful dunk.

And he put in his work early, scoring 20 of his game-high 30 points in the first half. 

Despite putting up yet another big-time scoring game, you didn’t get the sense that he was forcing the action offensively. 

That perhaps more than anything speaks to Tatum’s growth as an elite NBA scorer. 

DANIEL THEIS

The Celtics again got a sneaky-good performance from Daniel Theis, who had 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting to go with six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. 

Boston has a number of clutch players who deliver down the stretch. And while Theis doesn’t come to mind immediately, he made his share of key plays, including a tying 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. 

As we inch closer to the playoffs, the role that Boston will need Theis to play seems to continue to expand. 

He is consistently showing that he’s more than just a defender/rebounder/screen-setter. 

Theis continues to show he has a nice touch around the rim, in addition to being able to knock down 3’s if you leave him open, which the Pacers did during a critical moment in the fourth quarter.  

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Bucks-Celtics, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.