BROWN’S 40 PUTS CELTS UP 2-0, HALIBURTON REINJURES HAMMY!

By Jimmy Traub

The Pacers are plucky but they have no answer for Jaylen Brown, and the Celts are up in the Eastern Conference finals.

Brown hit the game-tying corner 3 in Game 1, which forced overtime and allowed the Celtics to scrape out a win.

In Game 2 he dropped 40 points.

The Celtics won Game 2 126-110 and now take a 2-0 series lead to Indiana on Saturday night.

However, the big story may be whether Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton can play in Game 3.

Haliburton left Game 2 with 3:44 remaining in the third quarter and walked straight back to the Pacers locker room, not to return. He has re-aggravated the hamstring issue that caused Haliburton to miss 10 games in January, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle confirmed postgame.

“We’ll know tomorrow and even more Saturday,” Carlisle said about whether Haliburton could return for Game 3.

Indiana was 7-7 in games Haliburton missed this season, but he is the engine of the Pacers’ up-tempo attack, and if he is out against a deep and elite Boston squad in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s hard to see a path through for Indiana.

There were stretches the Pacers struggled to score — and struggled with their defense all night — even when Haliburton was in the game.

What Brown and Boston did differently in Game 2 was be aggressive and get into the paint.

Boston averaged the lowest percentage of its points in the paint in the NBA during the regular season — because they launched more 3s than anyone — but in Game 2 the Celtics made a point of getting downhill and Indiana couldn’t stop them (Indiana gave up the most points in the paint this season). The Celtics finished with 54 points in the paint, 20 more than the Pacers.

It felt like this game was going to be decided at the start of the second quarter when the Celtics opened on a 17-0 run (it was 20-0 going back to the end of the first quarter) and pushed their lead out to 15. Brown stepped up and scored 24 points in the first half as he was the Celtic attacking off the dribble and trying to put his imprint on the game (Jayson Tatum had four points on 2-of-8 shooting in the first half).

Boston took advantage of Indiana turning the ball over 10 times in the first half, plus the Celtics grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in that stretch. The Pacers were shooting themselves in the foot. Yet, Indiana kept pushing the pace and never relented, got 16 points from Pascal Siakam on 8-of-9 shooting in the first half, and only trailed by six (57-51). Siakam finished the game with 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting — he continues to be a problem for Boston.

Indiana came out hot to start the second half behind Siakam — he had 10 early points in the third — plus they cleaned up the turnovers and offensive rebounds with that it got the lead down to two.

Then Boston answered with a 16-5 run of their own, getting the margin back up to double digits. From there, the game was never in doubt. Boston stayed hot in the third, shooting 16-of-22 in the frame, and after three quarters, the Celtics were up 93-80.

Tatum rebounded from his slow start and finished the game with 23 points, and Derrick White matched that amount with another strong game.

The fourth quarter was never going to see a Pacers comeback with Haliburton out.

The big question going forward is whether he will be around to help spark a Pacers comeback in this series.

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