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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Brown matches career playoff high with 40 points, Celtics beat Pacers to take 2-0 lead in East

    Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts on the court during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals against the Indiana Pacers, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Boston — Jaylen Brown was a big enough problem for the Indiana Pacers even before an All-NBA snub that may have given him an added desire to show how much he can do for the Boston Celtics.

    "I think he cares about it in a way that motivates him, and I think he doesn't really care about it at all," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said after watching Brown match his playoff career high of 40 points in Boston's 126-110 victory over Indiana in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night.

    "He understands that winning is the most important thing," Mazzulla said. "He just cares about the right stuff."

    Two nights after his game-saving 3-pointer and one day after he was left out of the voting for the league's top 15 players, Brown scored 10 points during a 20-0 Boston run that turned a first-quarter deficit into a second-quarter lead that the Celtics never relinquished.

    Asked if the All-NBA snub motivated him, Brown said, "I wouldn't say that." Asked to elaborate, he said colorfully: "We're two games from the finals. I don't got time to (care)."

    Jayson Tatum and Derrick White scored 23 points apiece and Jrue Holiday had 15 points and 10 assists for the top-seeded Celtics, who lost Game 2 in both of their previous series this postseason.

    Pascal Siakam scored 28 points for Indiana, which heads home for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday nights in an arena where they have won 11 straight games — including six in the playoffs — since March 18. Tyrese Haliburton, who had 25 points and 10 assists in the series opener, had 10 points and eight assists Thursday before leaving the game in the third.

    Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said Haliburton injured his left hamstring — the same injury that kept him out of 10 games in January.

    "We need Ty, but 'next man' mentality," Siakam said. "We've got to play together. This team got where we're at by playing together. ... It's on us to continue."

    One game after the Celtics jumped to a 12-0 lead and Indiana spent the rest of the first half clawing its way back, the lead changed hands 10 times in the opening quarter, with the Pacers holding a 27-22 edge with 1:14 left.

    Then Boston scored the next 20 points.

    Indiana missed nine straight shots and committed four turnovers during the drought that lasted more than six minutes. Brown scored 10 on his own during the run and had 24 at the half; he opened the third quarter with two quick baskets to give the Celtics a 61-52 lead.

    But Siakam also came out hot in the second half, hitting four baskets in the first four minutes – a pair of 2s and a pair of 3s – to make it a two-point game. Boston pulled away again – this time for good, scoring 16 of the next 21 points.

    Indiana never got within single digits again.

    Brown scored 26 points Tuesday night, when the Celtics won thanks to some unforced errors by the Pacers — especially Haliburton — down the stretch. On Wednesday, Brown was left off the All-NBA teams; last year's selection to the second team qualified him for a five-year supermax extension that made him the highest-paid player in the NBA.

    "I mean, he has it going," Holiday said. "Y'all see what I see. Great player. Great leader. But wants to win. And takes thinks into his own hands. So I'm glad to have him on my side. I ride with him. The way JB's been playing, man, it's outstanding."

    Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) grabs a rebound next to Indiana Pacers guard Ben Sheppard, right, during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
    Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) is defended by Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
    Members of the Indiana Pacers sit on the bench during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals against the Boston Celtics, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
    Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts after scoring during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals against the Indiana Pacers, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

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