In the clutch, Celtics’ Jaylen Brown showcased his fancy passing
The Celtics trailed the Pacers by 2 points with less than a minute left in Game 2 of their opening-round playoff series when Al Horford blocked a layup attempt by Bojan Bogdanovic and Jaylen Brown raced the other way.
It was a frenetic, unsettled possession, and Brown attacked the rim looking to tie the score. But with Pacers guard Darren Collison at his side, and Pacers shot-blocking specialist Myles Turner about to meet him in mid-air, Brown fired a pinpoint pass to Jayson Tatum in the corner.
Tatum calmly drilled the go-ahead 3-pointer that ultimately sent Boston to the 99-91 win, and it would not have been possible without Brown’s awareness and accuracy.
“I think what was really important was JB’s pass,” Tatum said. “Coming down the court he could have easily shot the layup and tried to get fouled. But that was a hell of a pass from JB so I had to knock it down.”
Later, Celtics coach Brad Stevens sought out Brown and told him it was one of the best plays he had ever seen him make.
“He was just smiling, and said that was a hell of a play, a big-time play,” Brown said. “I said to him, ‘You probably thought I was going to lay it up, didn’t you?’ He laughed. He said, ‘Nah, I knew you were going to make the right play.’”
Horford became ill on Tuesday night and was unsure if he would be able to play against the Pacers on Wednesday. But he skipped the team’s morning shootaround to rest and felt better by the time Game 2 began, and the Celtics probably would not have won without him.
Horford’s numbers were somewhat modest compared with what he usually produces: 4 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks. But he played the final 14 minutes, 24 seconds, and his defense in the post was essential as Boston charged back from a 12-point deficit and held the Pacers scoreless for nearly 8 minutes.
“Once we knew that Al was going to play, we knew he was going to be Al,” Terry Rozier said. “Whether he was scoring the ball or not, he’s going to make his presence felt. It’s always good to have him. He makes the job so much easier when you’re playing with him.”
Added Brown: “Tip my hat to Al. True warrior, true professional. He gave us everything he had, and everyone knows he’s battling an illness. He came out and was tremendous for us.”
Time to play
Stevens remains prepared to increase his starters’ minutes during these playoffs when necessary, particularly with Marcus Smart still sidelined by an oblique tear.
“You can play longer minutes in the playoffs for a lot of reasons,” he said. “No. 1 is you’ve built up the stamina to do so all year. And then the timeouts are longer and if you go into the fourth with your four timeouts, then you can stop the clock twice if you need to. There’s all kind of things that you can do to kind of save legs. Guys will play more as appropriate and as we feel like needed.”
Patriots Julian Edelman, Devin and Jason McCourty, and coach Bill Belichick attended the game.