The fourth-seeded Boston Celtics had a rough regular season, but they've been perfect so far in the playoffs. On Sunday afternoon, they pulled away from the Indiana Pacers in the fourth quarter of Game 4 to secure a 110-106 win, and with it a 4-0 sweep in their first-round series.
Kyrie Irving and Al Horford struggled, but they were picked up by the Celtics' bench, which outscored the Pacers' reserves, 49-40. Back in his home state of Indiana, Gordon Hayward stepped up in a major way, putting in 20 points on an efficient 7-of-9 from the field in one of his best games of the season.
As the first team to advance to the second round, the Celtics will now have plenty of time to rest as they await the conclusion of the first round. Their opponent in the second round figures to be the Milwaukee Bucks, who themselves are just one game away from a sweep of the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics beat the Bucks, 4-3 in the first round of the playoffs last season, with the home team winning every game.
Playoff series schedule (Celtics win series 4-0)
- Game 1 (at BOS): Celtics 84, Pacers 74 (Box Score)
- Game 2 (at BOS): Celtics 99, Pacers 91 (Box Score)
- Game 3 (at IND): Celtics 104, Pacers 96 (Box Score)
- Game 4 (at IND): Celtics 110, Pacers 106 (Box Score)
Odds and Analysis
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Pacers: Many counted the Pacers out after they lost Oladipo in the middle of the season, but Indiana fought hard to remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. With Oladipo out, the Pacers benefit from a team-oriented approach to both ends of the floor, and head coach Nate McMillan has done a great job of putting his guys in position to succeed. The main question facing the Pacers now is if they have enough top-tier talent to make some noise in the postseason.
Celtics: After an up-and-down season, the Celtics are just happy that the playoffs are finally here. Boston underachieved over the course of the regular season, as many expected them to run away with the East prior to the season's start. However, injuries and chemistry issues took a toll on the team. Despite those struggles though, the Celtics still have the talent to come out of the East if they can all get on the same page as they move on in the East.
Matchups to watch
- Brad Stevens vs. Nate McMillan: Stevens is looking to make it back to the conference finals, while McMillan is looking to get our of the first round for the first time in over a decade. Playoff basketball becomes much more of a chess match, as teams play each other multiple times in a row, and it will be interesting to see how these two counter each other as the series goes on.
- Al Horford vs. Thaddeus Young: The two veteran post players will be a central battle during the matchup between the two teams. They are the only two players in the series with 10+ years of NBA experience, and will both look to get the upper hand on the other. Whoever plays better between the two will go a long way toward helping their team advance to the second round.
- Kyrie Irving vs. Indiana's defense: Indiana had the third-best defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA during the regular season, but they will have a very tough task in slowing Celtics All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. While they likely won't be able to stop Irving completely, limiting his effectiveness would go a long way toward propelling the Pacers to an upset series victory.