Celtics vs Pacers Game Highlights

The Boston Celtics have two games left on their three-game road trip out of the All-Star Break. It began with a 142-138 overtime victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, February 23.

While it wasn’t easy, the Pacers made a good tuneup game for the C’s out of the break. The Pacers currently sit as the 12th-best team in the Eastern Conference, 17.5 games behind first-place Boston.

The Celtics were listed at or around eight-point favorites over the Pacers at a handful of Massachusetts sportsbooks, and ESPN Analytics forecast them to win in 74.1 percent of its projections.

Indiana managed to cover, powered by a strong second half. The Celtics opened up a 10-point halftime lead and promptly choked it away as the Pacers were able to force overtime.

All About Jaylen Brown

The break came at a perfect time for the Celtics, who saw starting wing Jaylen Brown go down with a facial fracture in their win over the Philadelphia 76ers on February 8. Brown only ended up missing four contests because of the injury, with the week off buying Boston extra time to evaluate his injury and allow him to heal. He appeared in the All-Star Game on Sunday wearing a face mask for protection, scoring 35 points on 16 of 27 shooting.

Brown went on the record to rip the exhibition contest after the game, complaining about the easy-going attitude players took to it.

“Real basketball is different. This was like a layup line. I don’t know how much notoriety we would want… to get from this,” Brown said. “This was a glorified layup line. We got to figure out how to make the game a little bit more competitive. If the fans like it, that’s all that matters.”

Despite his vehement reaction to the lackadaisical style of play, it’s probably a good thing for Brown that his fellow All-Stars weren’t going all out. He’s still recovering from injury, and a hotly contested competition could’ve been dangerous to his long-term health: should it come to a choice between an improved chance of winning an NBA title in 2023 or seeing the players try hard at the All-Star Game, Brown would almost certainly choose the former without a moment’s hesitation.

Initial reports said that Brown could be out for weeks because of the injury: that he’s back in game action barely two weeks removed from the injury must have Boston fans breathing a sigh of relief. Brown lived up to his All-Star billing against Indiana, notching 30 points and 11 rebounds in 43 minutes on the court.

Even with the injury, it seems clear that the Celtics trust Brown to be a full participant in games. Holding just a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks, they’ll need him.

A Look at the Other Side: Indiana

The Pacers started out the season strong but have since fallen off a cliff. They’re on a 6-18 skid since the calendar turned to 2023 and sit nine games below .500 with roughly a quarter of the season to go.

A big part of that collapse was an injury to 22-year-old guard Tyrese Haliburton, who missed nearly a month after suffering a mild bone contusion in his left knee and a sprained left elbow in a January 11 loss to the New York Knicks. That prompted a 1-9 stretch by the Pacers. Indiana was without energy and couldn’t seem to do anything right in the absence of Haliburton, who made the first All-Star appearance of his career on Sunday after averaging 19.9 points and 10.1 assists per game this season.

Haliburton turned in 22 points and 14 assists for the Pacers in 39 minutes, adding five forced turnovers.

The Elephant in the Room: Addressed

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla stepped in for the team following previous head coach Ime Udoka’s suspension for misconduct a month before the regular season started. The C’s didn’t miss a beat with Mazzulla at the helm, sitting at first place in the league for most of the season, prompting fans to wonder whether Boston would keep him on board or go back to Udoka following the conclusion of his suspension.

During the All-Star Break, the Celtics announced that they’d removed the interim label from Mazzulla’s position, officially promoting him to head coach and cutting ties with Udoka.

It’s a fitting reward for a job well done, and Mazzula is just 34 years old: if this is how his debut season looks, Boston fans have to be excited to see what kind of legacy he can build in Beantown as he continues to grow as a coach.

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