Boston Celtics edge Pacers: Takeaways from closing minutes

Boston Celtics hold on to beat Indiana Pacers with an unusual closing lineup.

The Boston Celtics held on to beat the Indiana Pacers 114-112 on Friday night. The game brought the Celtics into a tie for 4th place with the Pacers, and ensured that they cannot lose tiebreaker if the two teams wind up tied in the standings.

Brad Stevens, ever the tinkerer (even with a just a few games left), trotted out a lineup of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Aron Baynes to close the game.

That lineup has logged just 7 minutes so far this season – so, nothing. It’s a minus 22.2, but really, that sample size is meaningless. It’s a credit to Brad Stevens that he’s willing to trot out a completely new lineup in crunch time of a game that could decide whether you have homecourt in the first round.

Al Horford and Aron Baynes are so absurdly impactful on defense when they share the court. They only allow 85 points per 100 possessions when they play together, and sport a +22.4 net rating.

That’s phenomenal.

Kyrie Irving summed it up best after the game, saying they clog the middle of the floor and have good chemistry together. One of them always seemed to be at the rim whenever a Pacer got close.

That 5-man lineup was less impressive on offense. In a little over 3 minutes on the floor together, that lineup hit two shots. The first was a ridiculous three-pointer from Marcus Smart.

The second – with a different lineup out there, but Irving and Horford were the only ones really involved, so close enough – was the game-winning shot from Kyrie, which he admitted after the game didn’t go according to plan.

The Pacers didn’t execute flawlessly there, either. Myles Turner ran back to cover his man after showing on Kyrie, which maybe isn’t the right move when the team’s clear-cut closer has the ball in his hands with the clock winding down.

Regardless, Irving did his thing displaying wizard-like dribbling and clutch shot making (not Washington Wizard-like; if that were the case, he’d have missed the shot then thrown a temper tantrum while blaming his teammates for the dysfunction).

Fans watching in the arena left happy. I mean, look at this.

But the smart fan watching at home isn’t happy that, in crunch time, all the Boston Celtics mustered was a ridiculous rainbow 3-pointer that almost hit the rafters and a layup off a wild drive alongside two turnovers. The defense was good enough that they only lost two points in that stretch, and they won, so you want to look the other way.

The only reason we’re micro-analyzing 3 minutes of action here is the potential playoff matchup coming up between the two teams. The way the standings are shaking out, it’s not just possible, but probable at this point that they meet in the first round.

With one more regular season matchup coming up, pay attention to who Stevens trots out in the closing minutes if the game is close. He’s seemed more apt to rely on Baynes in recent weeks – does he stick with the two big lineup against Indiana?

Does Jayson Tatum get more run instead of Smart or Brown?

How about Gordon Hayward?

Expect tinkerer Brad Stevens to take advantage of the opportunity.