New Look Celtics Set the Tone Against Pacers

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After a lethargic 10-10 start to the season, a starting lineup change provided the Boston Celtics with a bit of a jolt.  The insertion of Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris into the starting five gave the team some life, set them on an eight-game winning streak and had snapped them out of an early season funk.

Photo courtesy of NBA.com
Fast forward four months, and Brad Stevens is hoping to recapture some more of that magic.  Mired once again in a 10-10 stretch, the Celtics altered their starting five before last night's game.  For the first time this year, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Aron Baynes took the floor to open the game.  This was a group that had played less than 30 minutes together this year, but by putting them out there, Stevens was placing an emphasis on defense.

Shop for official Boston Celtics team gear and authentic collectibles at NBAStore.comI was happy to see a change. It might not have been the change I expected, but it was a change nonetheless; and an effective one at that.  The Celtics imposed their will on the defensive end, and on the glass, in the early going and raced out to a 10-point first quarter lead.

The change made perfect sense going up against the front line of the Pacers.  Baynes and Horford combined for 13 points and six rebounds in the opening quarter; compared to just 4 points and 3 rebounds from the duo of Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young.  Baynes and Horford combined for 4 offensive rebounds, leading to nine second chance points in the first 12 minutes.  Baynes also finished the night with his first double double of the season - 13 points and 13 rebounds.  That's the type of hustle, and fight, that has been missing from this team.

That effort led to one of Boston's more thrilling victories of the season.  With the start of the postseason just two weeks away, it was refreshing to see the Celtics gut out a win against a very tough, resilient Indiana Pacers team.

The next step is to keep that defensive intensity and physicality up for a full 48 minutes. Boston opened and closed the game with strong defensive quarters. However, the second and third left something to be desired. The defense, and rebounding, became too lax and allowed the Pacers to get back into the game. Overall though, it was an encouraging performance.

Get used to seeing this Pacers squad too, Celtics fans.  Along with one more regular season matchup next Friday in Indianapolis, these two teams are going to meet on at least four other occasions; as they are headed for a first round playoff clash.  The only lingering question is who will have home court advantage.  With last night's victory, the Celtics currently hold the upper hand.

Everybody was quick to write off this Pacers team after they lost Victor Oladipo for the season.  Instead, this Pacers team has fought hard night in and night out, and played great team basketball. Sound familiar?  This team has every bit of the fight that the Celtics had last year, and we saw how far that carried them.

The front line of Baynes and Horford will be key to Boston's success against the Pacers.  Last night, they proved they are up to the task.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: New Look Celtics Set the Tone Against Pacers
New Look Celtics Set the Tone Against Pacers
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