Celtics

Stars, Studs and Duds: Tatum and Hayward too much for Pacers

Stars, Studs and Duds: Tatum and Hayward too much for Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jayson Tatum saw Doug McDermott in front of him and did what you might expect - he beat him off the dribble and got into the lane where he was fouled.

Bojan Bogdanovic?

Yup. You can get some of this, too.

It didn’t matter who the Indiana Pacers assigned to Tatum.

Tatum made any matchup a mismatch over and over again, which would be among the many things that went Boston’s way in their 117-97 win over the Pacers.

With the win, Boston (48-32) won the head-to-head series over the Pacers (47-33) and maybe just as important, all but secured home-court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs.

Either one Celtics win or another Indiana loss in the final two games of the regular season and Boston will secure no worse than the No. 4 seed in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Celtics are home against the Orlando Magic on Sunday and visit the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The Pacers host Brooklyn on Sunday and play the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday. 

And while it remains a long shot, there’s a chance that the Celtics might even climb as high as No. 3 with the Sixers’ recent struggles.

Tatum’s ability to attack the paint off the dribble was indeed a problem most of the night for Indiana.

And when they showed just a little too much respect to Tatum’s off-the-dribble game, he made them pay from 3-point range like the 3-pointer he made in the third quarter that put Boston ahead 74-60, their largest lead of the game up to that point.

The Pacers had a spurt here and there, but the Celtics’ control of the game was never in question.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the 20-point win over the Pacers.

STARS
Jayson Tatum: The tone of this game was set by Tatum’s ability to attack off the dribble most of the night, in addition to doing a solid job defensively. He would finish with a strong 22 points on 9-for-19 shooting along with seven rebounds for Boston.

Gordon Hayward: It was the perfect homecoming for Hayward, an Indiana native who starred at nearby Butler University. He continues to play some of his best basketball of late, delivering an impressive 21 points on a perfect 9-for-9 shooting night - and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line - to pace the Celtics.

Myles Turner: The Pacers crumbled in every sense of the word, but Myles Turner was one of the few steady forces most of the game. He would finish with 15 points and seven rebounds.

STUDS
Kyrie Irving:
So many other Celtics had a better game going than Irving, and to his credit, he didn’t force the action. That said, he still finished with an impressive stat line of 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting with six assists.

Domantas Sabonis: He got off to a wicked fast start, scoring eight points in the first four minutes he was on the floor. But that would be the bulk of his impact as he finished with 12 points total on 6-for-10 shooting to go with six rebounds and three assists off the bench.

Al Horford: Strong play defensively was his biggest contribution. But Horford did some nice things offensively as well, tallying 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting along with seven rebounds in 27 minutes.

Aron Baynes: He has been a double-double machine since entering the Celtics starting lineup. He would tally 11 points and 11 rebounds on Friday for his third double-double of the season, all coming in Boston’s last five games.

DUDS
Pacers' energy: In a game that meant everything to this franchise this season, Indiana looked like a spilled milkshake in July - just a big ol’ puddle of uselessness. Boston played with great force, for sure.  But the lack of pushback on the Pacers’ part has to be disturbing when you consider this is the same Celtics team they will likely face in about a week in the playoffs.

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NBA picks: Celtics vs. Suns betting predictions, plays against the spread

NBA picks: Celtics vs. Suns betting predictions, plays against the spread

The Boston Celtics aren't invincible, after all.

The Celtics had their nine-game winning streak snapped Sunday in Sacramento against the Kings when Marcus Smart's floater at the buzzer rimmed out.

Boston's 100-99 defeat was the team's second consecutive loss against the spread, as the C's only beat the Golden State Warriors by five on Friday night.

Will that trend continue on stop No. 3 of the Celtics' west coast road trip? The C's are road underdogs for just the fourth time this season for Monday's game against the upstart Phoenix Suns, who are 7-4 on the young season.

It's an intriguing scenario, so we'll dive right in with our moneyline, point spread and point total picks for Celtics-Suns, then give you our two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns, 9 p.m. ET

Moneyline: The Celtics' offense has looked pedestrian without Gordon Hayward on the start of this road trip. The Suns are giving up points in bunches, though, and this has the feel of a bounce-back game for a Boston club that got humbled in Sacramento. Put your faith in the Celtics (+145) to win outright. 

Point Spread: The Suns are much-improved, but they're not as good as their 7-4 record. The Celtics are 5-2 on the road and nearly beat the Kings despite a quiet night from Kemba Walker. Expect Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to power the Celtics (+3.5) to a win as road underdogs.

Point Total: Phoenix has allowed 112 points or more in four consecutive games. That's a good sign for a C's team that has mustered just 199 points over its last two contests. The OVER has hit in six of these teams' last 10 meetings, so I'll roll with the C's and Suns surpassing 226.5 points in a shootout.

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 16-10-1

NBA Locks of the Night

Cleveland Cavaliers (+3) at New York Knicks: The point spread is the only reason why you should watch this matchup of Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers. The Cavs are 7-3 against the spread this season and have shown some fight despite their poor record. The Knicks continue to be hopeless.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers (-10): Paul George will have the sole objective of getting buckets in his first game against his former team. The Clippers also are 7-1 against the spread at home, and Kawhi Leonard could return after sitting out the last two games. Take the home team to the bank.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 10-7-1

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

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AP photo

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.