As the NBA season winds down, the Boston Celtics find themselves in a very unexpected situation. The Eastern Conference team that was the initial favorite to attend the NBA Finals, and the highly expected number one seed, is sitting instead in 5th place in the conference with a 44-31 record and just 7 games remaining. While it’s very hard to extract positivity from the Celtics underwhelming regular season, the team is now looking forward to the postseason, which is much more promising for Boston. In a series where you will meet the same opponent and face the same gameplan for up to seven straight, it’s much more hopeful the Celtics don’t end up looking as a deer stuck in headlights as they have for much of this season. The most likely opponent, assuming nothing drastic changes, is the Indiana Pacers.
The teams are neck and neck in the standings, complete toss-up as to who will be the 4 seed with home court and who will be the 5 seed visitor. Indiana is a solid team, playing some of the league’s best team basketball, which is necessary to remain winning when your star player goes down, which of course with Victor Oladipo, is the case for Indiana. The Pacers are an elite defensive team that likes to score in bunches, 3rd in the league in defensive rating, in which their bread and butter is getting stops and converting easy buckets off them.
You’ll notice that this team doesn’t shoot a lot of threes or tough jumpers. Indiana’s offense is played very safe, getting high-quality shots close to the hoop. Their defensive intensity and excellent draw up from head coach Nate McMillan is what allows them to be so successful despite the lack of their star player, and being towards the bottom of the league in points from 3’s. However, it’s time to be honest… the playoffs are a time when talent truly comes into play, and if that talent plays with heart, which we usually see in the postseason, it’s hard to pick the underdog. With the team they have on paper, the Boston Celtics should not just win this series, but honestly they should be sweeping Indiana, especially without Oladipo. Yet, the team’s woes caused by many compiling issues have kept them from their full potential.
It’s hard to say Indy has enough star power to really threaten Boston into waking up. But even if the fire isn’t ignited due to a lack of a opposing talent, it is no excuse for the Celtics to lose this series. I’m not sure that the team is nearly operating at a smooth enough rate to sweep the Pacers, despite on paper they definitely should, but I’m taking the C’s in this series and hoping that if they do in fact play Indiana they are able to convincingly win and gather some confidence.