Celtics handle Pacers, take 2-0 Eastern Conference finals lead

Celtics rout Pacers behind Jaylen Brown's 40 (1:35)

The Celtics take care of business at home with a commanding Game 2 win over the Pacers fueled by Jaylen Brown's 40 points. (1:35)

BOSTON -- In each of the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Celtics comfortably won Game 1 before dropping Game 2 at home, first against the Miami Heat and then against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They flipped the script against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals.

After needing a minor miracle to escape with a Game 1 win at home, when a last-second 3-pointer by Jaylen Brown forced overtime, Brown again ensured this series would be different in Game 2 on Thursday night, finishing with 40 points to power Boston to a 126-110 victory and a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven affair.

Afterward, Brown, who learned Wednesday that he was edged out by Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton for an All-NBA selection, kept his focus on the main prize when asked about missing out on the honor.

"We're two games from the Finals," he said. "So honestly, I don't have the time to give a f---."

The Celtics' 2-0 advantage feels more significant in the wake of not only their great escape in Game 1, but also with Haliburton exiting Game 2 with a sore left hamstring -- the same hamstring he injured in a home game against the Celtics in January.

Two more victories by the Celtics and they advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years. They will have a chance to close the series in Indianapolis after holding home court through two games for the first time since the beginning of last year's first round against the Atlanta Hawks.

They have done it largely thanks to the play of Brown, who led the charge for a Celtics offense that shot over 50%, went 15-for-37 from 3-point range and finished with a 54-34 edge in points in the paint.

Add in Indiana's 16 turnovers and it became a comfortable victory for Boston. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle played his bench players for most of the fourth quarter as the partisan fans at TD Garden were relieved.

"Just continue to lock in," said Jrue Holiday, who had 15 points and 10 assists with just one turnover in 37 minutes. "We know that these guys coming off the bench, second and third string, this is their chance to make anything happen. ... We know on the big stage anything can happen and guys can make plays, so we really wanted to set the tone and control the game toward the end of the game."

Before Haliburton's injury in the third quarter, it appeared a Celtics injury would be the most significant. Luke Kornet, who has served as Boston's primary backup center with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined, left in the first quarter with a left wrist sprain. That forced Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla to go with small lineups whenever Al Horford was off the court.

For a brief stretch at the end of the first half and another in the fourth, those groups featured Jayson Tatum at center. Most of the time, however, it was reserve forward Oshae Brissett -- who had five appearances with five or fewer minutes through the first 11 games of the playoffs -- operating at center.

That lineup helped open the game up in the third quarter, when the Celtics outscored the Pacers by six over the final five minutes after Brissett put together what became a plus-18 performance in 12 minutes.

"I'm happy to see that," Holiday said of Brissett, who spent the past three years with Indiana before signing with Boston in the offseason. "He stays ready. He hasn't seen many minutes this postseason, probably didn't play as much as he wanted to in the regular season, but that's part of sacrificing and staying ready."

Tatum added: "It was great. Just the energy he came in with at both ends, just find a way to impact the game. We see the 'stay ready' group guys work and show up for us every single day, so I love when they're able to get their number called and help us win the game."

As the series shifts to Indiana, the Celtics are hoping their success on the road -- the one trend that has carried through the first two rounds of the playoffs, with Boston 4-0 away from TD Garden -- will continue at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. If it does, the Celtics will get a full 10 days off before the start of the NBA Finals on June 6 in Boston and will likely spend several days watching the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks duke it out in the Western Conference finals.

If there's any team that knows not to take anything for granted in the playoffs, however, it is Boston.

"The only thing we should be thinking about is, they were down 2-0 a series ago and brought it to Game 7," Mazzulla said, referring to the Pacers' series against the New York Knicks. "They do a great job protecting their home court. They're undefeated at home. It's gonna take a lot more than confidence to get the job done.

"We have to focus on the details and the execution and the mindset, the things that go into playing against a team like this at home. I know they're gonna respond, so it's up to us to do the same."