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Celtics’ Brad Stevens says Boston played with ‘more purpose’ after win over Pacers

Brad Stevens, Kyrie Irving, Celtics

The Boston Celtics have occasionally lacked the edge this season that’s been a lasting hallmark of the green and gold ever since Brad Stevens was hired as head coach in 2013. But in a crucial matchup on Friday against the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics rebounded from surrendering a double-digit lead, outplaying their fellow Eastern Conference foes down the stretch to a steal a 114-112 victory.

After the game, Stevens credited his team for an effort and sense of engagement Boston has recently been without.

“I thought we played harder, with more purpose than we have,” he said, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

As pleased as Stevens was with Boston’s physical and mental fortitude, it goes without saying that Boston could still stand to play better. If not for Kyrie Irving’s brilliant driving layup, that included multiple hesitations and fakes to free himself from suffocating Pacers defense, with .5 seconds remaining, the Celtics were at risk of losing at T.D. Garden to the team they’re poised to face in the first round of the playoffs – and need to get home-court advantage over to maximize their chances of advancing.

With the win, Boston moves to 45-31, in a dead heat with Indiana for fourth-place in the East. The Celtics lead the season series between the teams 2-1, with a final tilt to come next week in Indianapolis. If the Pacers prevail, home-court advantage in the first round will be decided by conference record. Boston currently has a 31-15 record against Eastern Conference opponents, while Indiana, predictably, sits one game back at 30-16.