Celtics

Celtics-Pacers Takeaways: Kemba Walker's hot, Gordon Hayward's hurt (again)

Celtics-Pacers Takeaways: Kemba Walker's hot, Gordon Hayward's hurt (again)

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time in a long time, Kemba Walker had one of those games we saw time and time again in Charlotte.

You know the kind; the ones where he would put the team on his back for most of the night, have a really high scoring night, only to come up short. 

Despite a season-high 44-point night by Walker, it wasn’t enough for them to fend off a fourth-quarter surge by the Indiana Pacers that ended with the Celtics losing 122-117 to the Pacers.

Walker eclipsed the 39 points he scored in his first game back from a neck strain Nov. 27 for his best output as a Celtic.

From the opening tip to the final horn, Walker was in a good rhythm shooting the ball. And he wasn’t limiting himself to scoring in one particular fashion, either. 

Drives to the basket in transition, drives to the basket in half-court sets; pull-up jumpers and, of course, 3-pointers. 

Walker, who was 16-for-28 from the field, was giving the game all that he had to offer on a night when the usual contributors for Boston early on weren’t chipping in at the usual high level he and the Celtics were used to. 

And what made the night all that more impressive for Walker is even with shot after shot falling, you never got the feeling he was forcing the action or taking shots that he normally doesn’t take. 

Still, in the end, Walker’s impressive performance was reminiscent of those big-time performances he delivered in Charlotte which, much like Wednesday, ended with a loss for Walker and his teammates. 

HOLIDAY SEASON

No, this isn’t about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or mistletoe or a peppermint latte from your favorite barista. 

We’re talking about the Indiana Pacers’ family affair better known as Aaron and Justin Holiday, teammates this season for Indy and brothers for life. 

They did their part in trying to ruin this nice run the Celtics (17-6) are on with some strong play at both ends of the floor that time and time again either helped extend a Pacers run or slow down a C's surge. They finished with a combined 35 points (18 for Aaron, 17 for Justin) on 15-for-23 shooting.

Limiting the impact of the bench was not something the Celtics should have been overly concerned with against the Pacers, who came in averaging just 31 points per game from its reserves, which ranks in the bottom 10 of the NBA this season. 

Keeping the backups from going off was a problem for the Celtics against Indiana, and if they’re not careful, it will be an issue Thursday night when they face the Philadelphia 76ers, who, like the Pacers, have a bench that doesn’t generate a ton of points. Still, as we saw on Wednesday night, it could be an issue. 

FREE THROWS

The final numbers didn’t tell the true story of how dominant the Pacers were from the free-throw line. Cashing in from the charity stripe was instrumental in Indiana going into the half with the lead and would later be a major factor down the stretch. 

Indiana was 30-for-36 from the line compared to the Celtics who were 17-for-22, the kind of differential that proved to be huge in a game that was so nip-and-tuck for most of the night. 

Keeping that margin close will be huge on Thursday night against a Sixers team that ranks among the league leaders in free throw attempts per game. 

GORDON HAYWARD

It seems like Gordon Hayward’s luck when it comes to whacky injuries is alive and well. He had nine points on 4-for-8 shooting against the Pacers, but left in the third quarter after taking a hard palm to the nose from Doug McDermott that sent him to the locker room for the rest of the game. 

He’s just been back two games after having missed about a month following a left-hand injury. 

It’s unclear the extent of Hayward’s injury, which comes at a time when the Celtics are already down Marcus Smart (eye infection) and Robert Williams III (hip), with no clear sense of when either will return. 

With both Smart and Williams’ status for Thursday night against Philly unclear, the possibility that Boston will be without all those two and Hayward will make an already daunting challenge that much tougher and put the C's 10-game home winning streak in legit jeopardy. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

How LeBron James felt about Jaylen Brown posterizing him in Celtics-Lakers game

How LeBron James felt about Jaylen Brown posterizing him in Celtics-Lakers game

BOSTON -- Jaylen Brown made a statement at LeBron James' expense Monday night -- even if James doesn't quite see it that way.

Brown climbed the ladder on the Lakers star in the third quarter of the Boston Celtics' blowout win over Los Angeles with a monster dunk that reminded many of Jayson Tatum's similar posterization of James during the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

Getting dunked on by two fresh-faced Celtics players can't be fun -- especially considering Brown earned a technical for showboating after his slam.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

But the 35-year-old has been around the block enough to not get worked up about it.

"You don't take it personal. It's part of basketball," James said after the game. "Guys go for blocks, you get blocks. You get dunks. You get crossed over at times, you get stops. You take charges. That's all part of basketball."

The 15-time All-Star also pointed out he's still batting well over .500 on plays at the rim.

"I think if you were to tally up my successful block attempts compared to my successful dunk ons, I think I'm kind of more like (up here)," James said while raising his hand to the ceiling.

"It's not the first time I've been dunked on, might not be the last time I get dunked on. But Jaylen's been playing exceptionally well this year, and that was a good play."

Brown is well aware of James' body of work, but the 23-year-old still relished in posterizing King James the same way an NFL defensive lineman may cherish sacking Tom Brady.

"I ain't going to lie, it was pretty nice," Brown said, before admitting that dunking on LeBron was, in fact, on his bucket list.

"Just to be out there playing against one of the best players to ever play the game is an honor, so I always like that matchup and it always gives me a little extra boost."

Brown's "extra boost" surprised even Tatum, who was skeptical his Celtics teammate would finish what he started on James.

"I didn't think he was going to dunk it, especially up vertical," Tatum said. "Jaylen's a hell of an athlete and a hell of a player."

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Grizzlies-Celtics, which begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Kemba Walker finally beats a LeBron James-led team in Celtics win over Lakers

Kemba Walker finally beats a LeBron James-led team in Celtics win over Lakers

BOSTON -- Whenever the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers square off, it’s a big deal. 

And the way Boston absolutely romped over the Lakers by the tune of 139-107, it was the perfect introduction to the Celtics-Lakers rivalry for Celtics newcomer Kemba Walker. 

In addition to snapping the team’s three-game losing streak, Monday’s win for Boston was also the first-ever for Walker against a LeBron James-led team after having come up short in his previous 28 matchups while in Charlotte. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

“He’s (James) beaten a lot of people,” said Walker who had 20 points and seven assists in the Celtics win. “I bet you, not a lot of guys have a winning record against LeBron James. I’m happy I got one at least before he goes."

Walker added, “Who knows how long he can play; he’s just incredible. It’s only one; one and 28.”

While true, there was a clear and undeniable joy that his new Celtics teammates took in helping Walker get his first win against a team that James played for. 

Marcus Smart said the Celtics players knew before the game that Walker was winless against teams James played for. 

“To his credit, the teams he was on when they played LeBron, they didn’t really have a chance at all,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “He was in a lose-lose situation. But, it feels good to finally get that monkey off his back. We’re excited for him. This was a great team win, but we’re really excited for Kemba to be able to get that stigma off him.”

Boston’s Gordon Hayward said he was “super-surprised” when he found out shortly before the game about Walker’s struggles against James-led team.

Hayward added, “I’m glad he finally got one. That’s a tough man to beat, for sure. I’m happy we got him a win.”

And while Walker feels good about getting that first win over James, it’s not like he’s poppin’ bottles to celebrate or anything like that. 

When Walker made the decision to come to Boston and the Celtics and Hornets worked out a sign-and-trade to make it happen, Walker came here looking for a fresh start. 

Beating a team with James on it is very much part of that new beginning Walker came to Boston seeking. 

“I’m with a new team so I’m 1-0 to tell you the truth,” quipped Walker.