The game was close, and then it wasn’t. It took the Celtics a mere 29 seconds to rattle off a 7-0 run early in the third quarter of Friday night’s game against the Pacers to stretch a 5 point lead to 12. By the end of the quarter the lead was 16 and ballooned to as much as 29 in an eventual 120-95 Celtics win at TD Garden.
The flurry of offense that helped Boston break open the game was reminiscent of the team’s play on that side of the ball through the first two months of the season.
The blowout win comes on the heels of an equally impressive 132-109 win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. Both games exemplified who the Celtics are on the offensive end of the floor when they are at their best. Through the last two contests the team has shot 36 out of 86 from behind the arc, a prolific 42% clip on significant volume.
“I think over the last two games, we were very, very detailed in our game-plan and execution, very detailed in our spacing, very detailed in our offensive attack,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said. after the game “I think we’re a much different team when we are committed to that. That’s hard to do over a long period of time. I think we are in a good place right now.”
The Celtics were led on Friday by their two stars (no surprise) Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Brown – who has been playing his best ball of the season lately – dropped 27. While Tatum led the Celtics with 34. But it’s not how many points Tatum scored but how he scored them. He has eschewed pulls ups and contested 3s the past two contests in favor of a more attacking style. Tatum shot 10 of 15 on 2-pointers against the Pacers. He has not attempted ten 3s or more the last two games after doing so in 5 of his previous 6.
“Just reading the defense, taking what they’re giving,” Tatum said. “Indiana, they’ve got Myles Turner, but they’re not like a big team, so just finding angles and trying to get to the rim.”
The Celtics continue to get consistent scoring from Derrick White. The Celtics guard scored 22 points and to go with 9 assists on Friday after a 20 point and 12 assist performance on Tuesday.
White’s backcourt mate Marcus Smart scored only 6 points on 3 shots but still earned plaudits for his selfless play.
“Smart is always trying to find guys, find his teammates, get guys open, get them going,” Tatum said. “So if you’re looking or not, if you’re going to be there or not, he’s going to throw it. We all know when Smart has the ball, keep your head on a swivel, run, and he’s going to find you. He’s trying to pass first, and when he’s pushing the ball, we’ve all got to follow suit.”
After posting their lowest scoring month of the season in January at 115.2 points per game, the Celtics offensive production has been on a slow upward trajectory, now averaging 118.4 points per game. This is still a far cry from the absurd 123.8 they averaged in November, but the numbers are starting to swing back in a positive direction for the Celtics and ‘Mazulla ball’.
“Winter is over, spring is here,” Brown said. “So definitely being in better spirits, trying to be I guess smiling a little bit, just to come out and just share your enthusiasm and your love for the game. I get that a lot. Probably don’t smile enough, but it’s a lot of work that we’ve got in front of us. And ain’t nothing funny.”
So do these last two games mean the Celtics are completely out of their post All-Star funk? Not entirely cautioned White.
“I think that’s just the way things are nowadays. Both ways, honestly,” White said. “We’re playing great, we’re amazing. Struggle a little bit, then the sky is falling. I think that’s just the way it is. We just gotta stay consistent and just do what we need to do to win games.”