For every misstep and ugly loss the Celtics have endured over the course of their undeniably trying season, the Celtics have still, somehow positioned themselves into a position of strength heading into the final two games of the season.
And they’ve never been in a better spot than at the conclusion of Friday’s head-to-head with the Pacers, a 117-97 victory in Indiana, all things considered. With the victory, the Celtics clinched the season series victory over the Pacers three games to one, and moved ahead of the Pacers for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
In yet another effort led by the ever-improving play of Gordon Hayward.
Hayward scored 21 points on a perfect 9-of-9 night on the Indiana hardwood, making him the first Celtics player to score at least 20 points on 100 percent shooting since Kevin McHale did so with a 25-point effort on Mar. 2, 1986.
“He’s playing really well,” Celtics coach Brad Steven said. “He’s attacking with great physicality. It’s good that he’s playing this way. He’ll have a lot of opportunities where he’ll make plays for himself, but moreso for others.”
Hayward was not alone in his double-digit scoring. Jayson Tatum led all Boston scorers with 22 points, Kyrie Irving finished with 17 points on a 7-for-14 shooting night, while Aron Baynes, Al Horford, and Marcus Morris all chipped in 11 points each.
The Celts will return to Boston for their final home game of the regular season, a Sunday night meeting with the Magic.