BOSTON – The Celtics didn’t just come out and play like they wanted to beat the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night.
They played like they wanted the beating to send a message.
After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Indiana on a late Victor Oladipo 3-pointer on Nov. 3, the Celtics presented their response in resounding fashion in the rematch at TD Garden as they went up as many as 31 points in a 135-108 blowout.
“That’s a playoff team that we’re playing over there,” said Jaylen Brown, who led seven Celtics in double-figure scoring with 22 points. “That’s a team that could be potentially matched up with us so we wanted to come out, play hard, protect home court.”
Marcus Morris scored a tremendously efficient 22 points on just eight shots, with eight rebounds, in just 23 minutes, Jayson Tatum scored 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting in 25 minutes, and Kyrie Irving scored 12 points in 24 minutes as the only starters in double figures.
Boston put four from the bench in double-digit scoring as Brown scored 22 points, Gordon Hayward had 14 and both Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis had 12.
“We’re ready,” Brown said of the bench that produced 71 points on Wednesday. “We’re taking advantage of every opportunity that we get. I think other teams know that when we come out we’re looking to be aggressive. So we’ve got to keep up that mindset. It’s going to take pressure off the first unit. And it’s going to help us overall to win games when the bench plays well.”
The Celtics shot 56.8 percent from the floor against the No. 2-ranked defensive team in the league as they delivered 32 assists on 50 made baskets to complete the sweep of the four-game homestand.
“We’ve got a couple of guys, especially Kyrie and Jayson, that can go (make individual plays to score),” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “But I think that they draw so much attention, and everybody else benefits so much from the attention they draw, that when the ball’s popping it’s a lot.
“It’s hard to guard.”
It was the type of start-to-finish obliteration of an upper-echelon team in the East that the Celtics promised to be able to hand out during their celebrated summer countdown to the season – and one in which they have increasingly shown signs of being able to deliver in winning seven of their last nine games.
“It speaks to the depth of our group,” said Al Horford, who had seven assists in 13 minutes in the first half and wound up with eight assists and six points in just 18 minutes on the night. “These are the type of positions that we want to be in as a group. We want Kyrie to be able to rest, a lot of us to be able to get some rest, and some of our other guys to come in and show what they have.
“This was an encouraging win for us.”
The Celtics used a 26-9 run to stretch a 12-point lead to 103-76 late in the third, then began the fourth quarter with six in a row on two Hayward baskets and one from Robert Williams fresh off the bench for a 111-80 lead with 10:53 left on the clock.
Indiana answered with a 10-2 run to draw a Stevens timeout with 8:50 to play.
A four-play play from Rozier and 3-pointer from Tatum ended any hint of mounting drama with a 122-91 spread with 7:45 to play as Stevens was able to rest the starters late on the first night of a tough back-to-back with the Miami Heat on tap Thursday night.
It was 35-35 with 8:40 left in the half when Brown scored nine points in three minutes to help rebuild a seven-point lead. It was the beginning of a 33-16 Boston run that culminated with an Irving 3-pointer that made it 68-51 in the final seconds of the half.
The Pacers used a 10-2 run to get within 79-67 midway through the third. The Celtics then lowered the sledgehammer from there with the 26-9 run as back-to-back 3-pointers from Rozier, and a third from Brown in the corner, had Boston up 103-76 before the Celtics hit the fourth quarter up 25.