| The Enterprise
Friday night’s tilt against the Indiana Pacers started a pivotal stretch for the Boston Celtics, who close the first half of the season with a four-game homestand.
The Celtics were in a dire situation after losing eight out of their last 11 games and plummeting in the Eastern Conference standings, but it still took them a moment to wake-up against the Pacers.
Indiana raced out to an 18-4 lead five minutes in but Boston showed a resiliency and hustle it has been lacking as of late to earn a much-needed 118-112 win at the TD Garden.
Here is what stood out from a win that could help the Celtics get back on track:
Extra rest continues be Kemba Walker’s best friend
With all the talk of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum being named All-Stars, it’s easy to forget that even though Kemba Walker hasn’t played up to that level this season, he has earned that honor each of the previous four seasons.
With added rest – Walked didn’t play in Boston’s loss to the Hawks Wednesday as the Celtics continue to sit him out on the second leg of back-to-backs due to left knee injury management – the Celtics point guard returned to his stellar form.
Walker spearheaded Boston’s offense with one of his better performances of the season as he netted a season-high 32 points to go along with 6 assists. Walker looked explosive coming out of pick-and-rolls and got to wherever he wanted on the floor to get to the rim or set up his teammates. Myles Turner might be leading the NBA in blocks, but he had a difficult time staying with Walker when switched onto him.
Time Lord gets more time
If what Robert Williams did against two of the better big men in the league in Turner and Domantas Sabonis doesn’t get him more playing time, who knows what will.
Williams came off the bench to provide an instant spark for the Celtics and coach Brad Stevens stuck with him. Williams played 22 minutes and filled up the stat sheet. He totaled 14 points to go along with 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks.
Williams, who grabbed two key rebounds in the game’s final minute, is still prone to head-scratching mistakes that Stevens will have to learn how to live with because Williams’ athleticism, energy and rim protection is just too valuable to keep him off the floor in favor of Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson.
Jeff Teague sighting
Signing Jeff Teague in the offseason was a complete bust of a move, but Friday was a step in the right direction for Teague. Along with Williams, he led a sterling bench effort to give the Celtics some secondary scoring that they desperately needed – Tatum and Brown combined for only 11 first-half points.
For a second straight game, Teague scored 14 points and the veteran guard showed off his savviness by making 7-of-8 free throws. Teague went through a stretch this month that Stevens sat him on the bench six out of eight games. The Celtics need this production from him to become more consistent.
The struggles of Jayson Tatum
Tatum has had games recently were he has just plainly looked exhausted. In a loss to Washington two weeks ago, Stevens said he thought Tatum looked tired after the Celtics star went 3-for-14 from the field and scored only 6 points.
Tatum had another one of those games versus the Pacers as it just didn’t look like he had his legs underneath him. Tatum shot 4-for-18 and scored nine points. Tatum, who did grab nine rebounds, even missed a third-quarter dunk and then came up short on an easy layup to start the fourth quarter.
But it was a good sign from the Celtics that they could still pull out a win despite not receiving a dominating performance from their best player. Too much of a burden has been put on Tatum and Brown to carry the offense and in this win, they didn’t have to.
Focus and intensity
The most aggravating part of Boston’s recent three-game losing streak that it snapped was a lack of urgency and effort. And while the start was as far away from perfect as possible, the Celtics looked more locked in and scrappy.
The Celtics did a better job of contesting shots on the perimeter and got extra effort when needed, especially from Payton Pritchard, who kept some possessions alive by grabbing three offensive rebounds.