Celtics Hand It To Pacers In Huge Game For Playoff Seeding
Joe Robbins | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – It was about the worst time of the year to have the performance the Pacers did on Friday.
Playing one of the franchise’s biggest home regular season games in quite some time, the Pacers (47-33) were run off the floor, and are now looking at yet another road playoff series.
Boston’s (48-32) second-quarter surge on Friday gave them an 11-point halftime cushion and it was a margin that would end with a cruising 117-97 victory.
The Pacers never seriously challenged in the second half with Nate McMillan benching his starters mid-way through the 4th.
“They were more physical, they were faster, they were stronger,” McMillan said after the critical loss. “They pretty much dominated the game.
“They make you work. They’re long, they’re athletic, they’re physical. We missed some shots and some of those were at the rim, but they made us work. We’ve got to do a better job of trying to screen these guys and get free. A lot of it was taking the ball out of the net and playing a set defense. We weren’t getting a lot of stops. When you’re not getting stops and you’re playing against a set defense like that, it’s going to be tough to score.”
With Boston’s win, they claimed the head-to-head season series 3-1 over Indiana.
The Celtics are now a game ahead of the Pacers in the race for the 4th and final homecourt slot. Any Boston win or Indiana loss in the final two games of the season will clinch homecourt for the Celtics.
Indiana’s best home crowd of the season, with Larry Bird in attendance, did not have much to cheer about after the first quarter and a half.
Gordon Hayward (9-of-9 for 21 points) gave Boston a huge spark off the bench in the second as the Celtics pushed their lead at the end of the first half.
Even though Indiana went the entire first quarter without committing a foul or turnover, they only led by three points.
When those two stats rose in the second quarter, Boston started looking like the team many thought they would be this season.
The Pacers finished the game shooting 41 percent from the field.
Indiana’s Darren Collison (groin) and Boston’s Jaylon Brown (back) booth missed Friday’s meeting.
The Pacers have now lost 6 straight nationally televised games.
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
-Hayward Shows Boston Firepower: What the Celtics showed on Friday is how many people (including me) thought they would look in the Eastern Conference this season. They have premier talent and can come at you in droves. They did exactly that on Friday. Early on, it was Kyrie Irving getting whatever he wanted. Then it was Gordon Hayward looking healthy and not missing a single shot from the field (9-of-9 for 21 points). Even without a guy like Jaylon Brown on Friday, the Celtics still have so much potent firepower that extents far past Irving. Hayward did his damage off the bench on Friday and must have enjoyed the Butler flavor to Friday’s festivities at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Boston scored 115 points on Friday and were just 7-of-27 from behind the arc. That’s a bit scary looking ahead to the next couple of weeks.
-Bogey’s Rare Struggles: We have not been used to anything like what we saw from Bojan Bogdanovic on Friday night. Bogey has played at an All-Star level since the New Year. He wasn’t close to that on Friday thought, finishing the night 1-of-8 from the floor for 4 points. Bogey better be prepared with tons of defensive attention from Boston in the coming weeks, as the Celtics players noted after the game how important it was to take him away. The veteran forward has had a career year and has been outstanding for the Pacers, but he’s going to need some major help for Indiana to have a chance in Round One. On Friday, the Pacers went 10-of-23 from three-point range and still lost by 21, not even reaching the 100-point mark.
-Get Ready For The Road: Friday’s loss all but assured that the Pacers will open up the playoffs on the road for the 4th straight year. Any Boston win or Pacers loss in the final two games of the season will mean that the Pacers are the 5th seed in the playoffs. In fact, Nate McMillan said after the game that his staff will entertain the idea of resting some guys in the final two games of the season, with their seeding all but locked up. For an Indiana team that has won just 1 road game in the last month and change, this is not at all the ideal recipe for trying to win their first playoff series since the 2013-14 season. Indiana will enter the playoffs with that looming question: Can they beat the league’s better/best teams consistently enough in a two-week period? They have not shown that in post-Victor Oladipo life this season.
Pacers Remaining Schedule
-Nets (Sunday, 4/7)
-at Hawks (Wednesday, 4/10)
Celtics Remaining Schedule
-Magic (Sunday, 4/7)
-at Wizards (4/9)