It’s officially over… well not officially, but it’s over. The Celtics have gone up 3-0 in their 1st round series against the Pacers and, if the historic pattern of 3-0 winners continue, the Celtics will become the 133rd team to win a series when going up 3-0, making the all-time record 133-0.
This series has been a weird one. The Celtics and Pacers have played some oddly close, but not too close, games if you know what I mean. They’re competitive, yet you kind of know who’s going to come out on top and it’s been the Celtics. Although they haven’t played all that well this series, the Celtics have been able to play at an acceptable level to beat the Indiana Pacers. All series long Indiana has been competitive with Boston. They grabbed an 11 point lead in Game 1, a 12 point lead late in Game 2, and they were able to come back from 15 down in Game 3 to make the game close. Unfortunately for the Pacers, they lost all of these games. Why? Their lack of a star. The Celtics have been able to lean on a nice roster of guys who can get the team a bucket when needed. Guys like Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward. Meanwhile, Indiana has been mostly reliant on… Bojan Bogdanović, Wesley Matthews, and Tyreke Evans. All solid players, but none of which are stars. Indiana, in crucial moments of big playoff games, haven’t had that go to guy. They haven’t had anyone that can just go and get a basket. We all know Victor Oladipo was, and still is, their All-Star, but since he’s been injured their list of guys they can look to be that go-to guy is short. In big moments in this series, we’ve seen that show itself. In Game 1 the Pacers scored a total of 8 points in the 3rd quarter, totaling only 74 for the game, in Game 2 they scored 12 in the 4th, totaling 91 for the game, and finally, in Game 3 they scored 12 points in the 3rd quarter, totaling 96 for the game. It’s this same consistent pattern of Indiana falling apart in the 2nd half that has killed them and the Celtics have fortunately taken advantage during these stretches. They’ve shot the ball well, moved the ball well, played with purpose, played with energy, it’s what we need to see out of this Celtics team 24/7. What worries me is that we don’t.
There’s been a lot of positives for the Celtics during this Celtics-Pacers series, but trust me on this one, there’s been plenty of negatives. It’s great and all that the Celtics are up 3-0 on the Pacers at the moment, but I’m not sure the way they’re playing will work against teams like the Bucks or Raptors in later rounds. They’re kind of flipping the switch off and on like we’ve seen them do all season long. Boston looks dominant in certain parts of games, yet they’ve looked more like a fringe playoff team during other stretches. They have tremendous ball movement, they have guys who can make shots, who play with great energy, physicality, and toughness, this team can match up with a lot of teams in the league. The bad part is they don’t always use their strengths to the best of their abilities. This team floats. For a team who is supposed to be contending for a title, for a team who is suppose to be this team full of ridiculous talent, they should be blowing out the Indiana Pacers, who are without their only star in Victor Oladipo! These shouldn’t be close games! The reason they are is decision making and effort. Like I said, this team does have the skill and talent to go far, however when you don’t play with effort and don’t play with some assertiveness and awareness you’re not going to make it incredibly far. Do I believe this team can play with more effort? Of course I do. They’ve already shown signs this series of it, especially in Game 3.
On the road, in a semi-tough environment, cruising with a 2-0 lead, this team didn’t pull their same old mellow approach. They came out attacking. They made shots, moved the ball, got to the rim, got to the free throw line, and played some pretty fair defense to start the game. Granted that attack slowed down throughout the night, but the fact that it was there from the tip was impressive. That’s the way this Celtics team needs to start every game, especially against a very good Milwaukee Bucks squad in the next round. Looking forward, I’m optimistic about this Celtics team. Sure there’s things to improve with this team moving forward, communication on defense, shot selection, and consistency, but that’s all gotten better these past couple of weeks, which means there could be even more of an improvement moving forward.
Game 4 should be a fun one. Indiana isn’t just going to quit. They’re a team who’s not going to roll over. Their Playoff slogan is “Gold Don’t Quit” for crying out loud! I expect it to be a physical, gritty game, with both teams not giving an inch. Indy’s season is on the line, while Boston has a chance to sweep and move on. Don’t miss it! 1:00 eastern on ABC!
By: Seamus Zarlingo