The Boston Celtics finished the regular season with the NBA’s best record, started the playoffs 9-2 and led by 20 points in 47 of their 94 games.

Their kryptonite: Game Twos.

Boston has dropped the second game in every season to start this post-season and has lost three in a row dating back to the ECF finals last year. Throw in the Boston Bruins and the teams from T.D. Garden entered Thursday night 0-6 in their previous six-game twos.

Until tonight.

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Boston put up a professional effort in their all-black uniforms, a different combination than in previous game twos this season. The Celtics never trailed by more than one possession after the first quarter and kept a double-digit lead for the final 16 minutes of game action. Fresh off an All-NBA snub, Jaylen Brown played the best game of his playoff career, dropping a 40-point bomb on 52% shooting while taking on the most difficult matchup of the night, guarding Pascal Siakam. Jrue Holiday filled in the gaps, creating ten assists with only one turnover and shooting 3-4 from behind the arc.

Early on, it did not seem like Indiana would run out of steam. The Pacers scored 18 points in the first six minutes, holding a slender 18-15 advantage. Indiana’s balanced offensive approach continued to befuddle Boston, as six players made baskets in the opening 12 minutes, equating to finishing the first ahead 27-25, shooting 58%.

Like game one, Boston erupted and went on a tear to start the second. After an uncomfortable start, the Celtics ripped off a 20-0 run and did not allow a point for the first five minutes of the frame. Brown scored 10 out of the 20 points as he kept the Pacers off balance by exploding to the rim and draining two triples. Two free throws from Derrick White pushed the lead to 16 with six minutes to go, but once again, Indiana clawed back into the contest with mental toughness and resilience. Siakam could not be stopped, scoring 12 points in the final four minutes of the quarter, finishing the half with 16 points on 8-9 shooting as the Pacers trailed by only six at the break, 57-51.

While Brown dropped 24 in the first half, the Celtics cannot reach their ultimate goal if Jayson Tatum does not play his best. Unfortunately, the Duke alum put together one of the worst halves of his career. Tatum finished with only four points while looking disengaged on the defensive end. White and Tatum shot 3-15 in the first, and the Celtics needed more from their stars to secure the 2-0 series lead.

They delivered.

Once the Pacers pulled within 2, 68-66, the Tatum tornado came out of nowhere. He and White scored or assisted on 12 of the following 16 Celtic points as Boston put together another massive 16-2 scoring run over six minutes. After shooting 5-15 from long range in the first half, Joe Mazzula‘s men canned four triples in the third alone and retook a double-digit lead. As the Celtics rounded into form, Indiana fell apart.

At 6:20, star PG Tyrese Haliburton went to the locker room and did not return with left leg soreness. Haliburton is the engine of the Pacer offense and without him, the team stalled. Rick Carlisle’s club trailed 93-80 entering the fourth, but without their best player, the coach waved the white flag. Carlisle benched Myles Turner to start the quarter and pulled Siakam three minutes later. After three straight road games, an emotional loss in game one, Carlisle cut his losses and emptied his bench.

The Pacer reserves fought valiantly and did not let Mazzula feel comfortable pulling his starters until 90 seconds left in the game, but they had nowhere near the talent as Boston. The Celtics knocked down 69 points in the second half and protected the home court winning game two 126-110.

Heading into game three, the storyline shifts to Haliburton’s health. With him on the floor, the Pacers went shot for shot with the Celtics and kept the contests close. Without him and trailing 2-0, Boston’s cakewalk of a conference championship will continue for the next two games in Indiana.

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