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Oshae Brissett the unsung hero in ‘revenge game' vs. Pacers

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics looked sluggish on both ends of the floor to start Game 2 vs. the Indiana Pacers. Then, Oshae Brissett checked in.

Brissett replaced an injured Luke Kornet (left wrist) as the C’s went small-ball to start the second quarter of Thursday’s matchup. Down two points to begin the frame, they went on a 20-0 run and didn’t trail for the remainder of their 126-110 win. While Jaylen Brown (40 points, 17 in second quarter) rightfully will earn most of the credit for Boston’s turnaround, Brissett’s impact shouldn’t be understated.

The former Pacer’s energy was contagious. He grabbed two rebounds in his first two minutes and his solid defense helped to keep Indiana from making a shot for the first six minutes of the frame. His final numbers don’t jump off the page, but his contributions went well beyond the stat sheet.

“Just his presence, his energy, his athleticism,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Brissett. “He plays with such a high level of intensity and energy. It’s big for us.”

Brissett ended up with two points, three rebounds, and three steals. He was a +18 in 12 minutes, tying Brown for the highest mark in the game.

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Prior to Thursday, Brissett only saw the court in the playoffs during garbage time and topped out at five minutes in Game 2 of the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers. So, he knew he need a mindset change when he checked in early to an intense East Finals game.

“That’s very different,” Brissett said of the difference between the regular season and the playoffs. “The preparation, the focus, the attention to detail is definitely something that is heightened in these games. Practice, film, just talking amongst the guys, that’s definitely a couple of steps up, a couple notches up.

“And, you know, this would be my first time with a championship team. It’s amazing. I really feel like I’ve been locked in, real focused in on all little details and things that before I never really paid attention to, just because I didn’t have the experience. So I feel like I’m in a good position.”

Although Brissett’s performance may be glossed over by the box score watchers, it certainly wasn’t overlooked by his teammates.

“I’m happy to see that,” Holiday said of Brissett being a +18. “And he stays ready. He hasn’t seen many minutes this postseason. Probably didn’t play as much as he wanted to during the regular season. But I just think that’s a part of sacrifice and him staying ready.

“Him staying ready, I know was tough because you’re not really getting game reps like that, but the way he came out and played — I think in like the first two minutes had two rebounds and great stops — just really excited and glad to see him do that because for one, it’s a confidence booster and two, it’s against his old team.”

Not only did Brissett bring the energy on the court, but he also seems to have added a jolt to the locker room. According to The Athletic’s Jay King, Holiday and fellow veteran big man Al Horford hyped up Brissett during his media availability.

Depending on the severity of Kornet’s injury, we could see the Celtics play small-ball more in this series going forward. Given their success with Brissett in the mix and Tatum at the five in Game 2, they could opt for the small lineup even if Kornet is healthy.

Either way, the Celtics are confident in their ability to match up against the team in their way of an NBA Finals berth.

“They do a great job of having controlled chaos. They move the ball, they move bodies, they play fast,” Holiday said of the Pacers. “But we can also do that. We can go small, we can go big, we can slow down, we can play fast, we can execute.”

The Celtics will look to take a commanding 3-0 series lead when the series shifts to Indiana on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

Coverage for Game 3 starts at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live on NBC Sports Boston.

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