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Boston Celtics Player Grades From 102-101 Loss to the Pacers

The Boston Celtics four-game winning streak was snapped in the final seconds of a road loss to the Indiana Pacers. We grade the players’ performances.

The  Boston Celtics opened up a five-game road trip with a last-second 102-101 loss to the Indiana Pacers Saturday night.

Kyrie Irving‘s clutch three-pointers weren’t enough to offset Victor Oladipo‘s fourth quarter heroics and and Irving’s missed layup late left the door open for the Pacers to push through for the win.

Despite drilling 19 three-pointers on the game, the Celtics only managed to score 101 points and post an offensive rating of 104.6, right around their season average, which ranks 27th out of 30 teams.

After a hardworking home takedown of the previously unbeaten Bucks, Boston lacked an edge to their play most of Saturday night, which Indiana made them pay for.

Here are the individual player grades for the Boston Celtics.

Irving took just three shots in the first half, once again comfortable running the show and getting his teammates involved before attempting to take the game over late. Irving’s strategy would have worked were it not for a late missed layup that would have put the Celtics up four points in the final seconds and all but sealed the game.

 

Irving did drill a go-ahead three-pointer with just over a minute left, then another three in Victor Oladipo’s face to put Boston up 4 with 37 seconds remaining–though he looked off a wide-open Al Horford at the top of the key to hoist the incredibly difficult shot.

 

After the three-pointer, however, Irving–who had been subbed out for Marcus Smart on the previous couple defensive possessions-allowed Oladipo to score the final 7 points of the game, including a far-too-easy pull-up three-pointer to win the game with 3.4 seconds left. Oladipo’s late shots weren’t easy, but Irving could have done a much better job forcing the ball out of Oladipo’s hands, or at least force him out of his comfort zone.

 

Irving finished the game with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, while making 6-of-12 shots, and 4-of-7 three-pointers.

A season ago, Jaylen Brown shot a career-high 39 percent from beyond the arc. Through nine games this season, he has made just 30 percent of his four three-point attempts per game. On Saturday, Brown made just 1-of-5 three-pointers, though his lone make gave the Celtics a 94-92 lead late in the fourth quarter.

 

Though Brown struggled offensively, he did play a strong defensive game in his return after missing the last game with a foot injury. Brown was one of a few defenders who helped limit Oladipo, until the final few minutes.

 

Brown finished the game with 12 points on 14 shots, but he also pulled down 7 rebounds and blocked 2 shots.

Jayson Tatum shot 4-for-8 from beyond the arc and finished the game with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. After surprising most people with his defensive acumen as a rookie, Tatum’s defense has only improved in his second season, as he plays with more confidence and strength.

 

The second-year forward did a better job Saturday of just shooting the open three-point shot instead of taking one useless dribble inside the arc and settling for a long-two. He even had one beautiful pump-fake, side-dribble into a three-pointer that was a move well beyond his years.

 

However, in Boston’s offense the ability to make decisions on the drive-and-kick game is paramount, and Tatum is perhaps the worst player in the regular rotation at reading those situations. Though Tatum had three assists, and shows moments of comprehension, he also had three turnovers. Until Tatum can get better at reading the defense and make quicker decisions with the ball, the Boston offense will lag behind its potential.

After having his best game of the season in Boston’s win over Milwaukee, Gordon Hayward had perhaps his worst effort of the season Saturday night. Hayward missed all five of his three-point attempts and scored just four points on 2-for-10 shooting.  The Celtics starting forward got shots he is comfortable with, but he couldn’t knock them down.

On the other hand, Hayward is clearly getting more confident in his health and athleticism, as seen by an alley-oop dunk he threw down, his defensive effort, and the increased ball-handling responsibilities. Celtics coach Brad Stevens is slowly unveiling some sets that revolve around a three-man game with Hayward, Irving, and Al Horford, and Hayward has shown his playmaking ability, freeing both Irving for three-pointers and Horford for lobs out of these simple plays.

A season after finishing in the top 10 in three-point percentage, Al Horford has been inconsistent with his three-point shot–even though his shots are as open as anybody could ask for. Through nine games, Horford is shooting just 30 percent from deep on more than five tries per game.

 

On Saturday, Horford made 1-of-4 three-pointers. He tallied 14 points and 6 rebounds, but a season-low one assist. Horford was able to get by Pacers center Myles Turner time and again on the perimeter, but Indiana’s game plan to stay home on the shooters, forced Horford into being a scorer and he wasn’t able to adapt enough to pull out the win.

Marcus Morris nearly reached his season scoring average in the first half, dropping 14 points to keep the Celtics even with the Pacers. Morris’ hot shooting continued into the third quarter, when he carried a lagging Boston offense. Without Morris, the Celtics wouldn’t even have been in striking distance in the fourth quarter.

Morris scored a team-high 23 points and nailed 4-of-6 threes to go along with 6 rebounds in 32 minutes. Through the first nine games of the season, the reserve forward has  been Boston’s most consistent offensive threat and he has both improved his shot profile (by shooting more 3’s, and less contested 2’s) and been more willing to pass out of the paint for open shooters.

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Among other Boston bench players, Marcus Smart stood out as he delivered a team-high 9 dimes and was Celtics-best plus-12 for the game. Smart also did a great job harassing Oladipo and quarterbacking the defense when he was in the game.

Boston will look to bounce back from the loss Monday evening in Denver, when they face off with the 8-1 Nuggets, playing as well as any team in the league.

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