Celtics

‘That’s a big dude’: Why Jaylen Brown shoved Goga Bitadze, plus 5 takeaways as Pacers demolish Celtics

"We just have to refocus and kind of settle back in."

Celtics Pacers
Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield goes to the basket against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown. AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Prior to Sunday’s game against the Pacers, the Celtics allowed the fewest made 3-pointers per game in the NBA over their last 15 — just 9.9 per contest, tied with the 76ers.

The Sixers might take the lead in that category after the Celtics fell 128-107 to the Pacers. The Celtics looked tired and slow in their third consecutive road game, which doubled as their second early game in as many days. As a team, they shot 27.9 percent from behind the arc. Jayson Tatum finished 2-for-12. Marcus Smart and Derrick White combined to go 2-for-12 as well.

The Pacers, meanwhile, shot 60 percent from 3-point range in the first half to take a double-digit lead, and they didn’t cool down in the second half. Oshae Brissett (32.1 percent from three this season) hit a career-high six (6-for-9), while Tyrese Haliburton finished with four. The Pacers overall hit 17 overall, just the seventh time this season a team has hit 17 or more 3-pointers this year against the Celtics.

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For 26 days in February, the Celtics were the NBA’s best defensive team (and the best team overall) by a significant margin. Sunday’s result doesn’t change that, although it might make the numbers a little less gaudy.

The question for the Celtics now becomes how they respond to consecutive games of less-than-impressive defensive performances. Both could be easily explained by the early start times, and if the Celtics play well against the Hawks, the minor slippage since the All-Star break won’t be much of a concern.

“After a game or two, I wouldn’t say that we’ve fallen off a cliff or anything,” Ime Udoka said. “We just have to refocus and kind of settle back in and have the starts that we had earlier in the streak. Not to say the break halted our momentum or focus or anything, because we still have guarded well at times as you saw in Detroit in the fourth quarter and certain quarters, so just have to come out with a better mindset and play through a three in four nights.”

More takeaways

2. Sunday’s game got pretty chippy by the second half. Officials passed out several technical fouls, including one to the normally stoic Jaylen Brown after he shoved Pacers big man Goga Bitadze when Bitadze knocked him down in the paint establishing position. Bitadze’s play probably should have been whistled an offensive foul, but Brown’s reaction was surprising.

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“They missed a call,” Brown said. “It was pretty obvious. They even said it after the game. They watched it and reviewed. It was an offensive foul. That’s a big dude and I feel like he was trying to put something behind that, trying to send a message.

“So that’s why I was upset. You can’t miss a call like that. Officiating got me that tech.”

If the officials did indeed admit they missed the call, it will be interesting to see if Brown gets fined for criticizing them in the media.

“You can’t let a play like that go,” Brown said. “And that’s where my frustration was. That’s — you can’t miss that. That’s how stuff gets escalated, etc. You can’t let somebody get away with that.”

3. Al Horford was dressed and available for Sunday’s game, but he was a rare healthy scratch.

“37 minutes last night,” Udoka said, referring to Horford’s minutes against the Pistons. “That’s the decision, that’s what went into it.”

The Celtics want to keep Horford healthy for their stretch run — their defense improves by 4.5 points per 100 possessions when he is in the game.

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4. The Celtics once again struggled to find offense against a zone, most notably in the second quarter which the Pacers won 39-25. Again, 3-pointers were the big issue: The Pacers outshot the Celtics from deep, going 8-for-11 to Boston’s 3-for-14. For the most part, the Celtics failed to make the Pacers pay for their scheme.

5. Ime Udoka agreed with a reporter who asked him after the game if Sunday’s loss was a missed opportunity. The Celtics have a tough stretch ahead — according to Tankathon, they have the fourth-toughest remaining schedule in the NBA. With two games against losing opponents and one against the Nets’ third string, the Celtics could have used a 3-0 road trip

Udoka noted that the Celtics were on the second night of a back-to-back and their third road game in four nights. Even against the Pacers, Sunday’s game could have been seen as a scheduled loss.

Still: “You still have to come out and play the game,” Udoka said.

The Celtics are now 36-27. They trail the Bucks for fifth in the standings by a game.

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