The Boston Celtics proved too much for the Indiana Pacers, using a huge second half to pull away for a Game 1 victory.
Holding the Boston Celtics to 84 points on 36.4 percent shooting in Game 1 is a huge success for the Pacers. Unfortunately, their own offense struggled even more and 84 points were still enough to give Boston a 10-point win.
The Pacers led by as many as 11 in the first half, forcing 12 Boston turnovers. The Celtics looked out of sorts — Kyrie Irving was missing shots and they weren’t sure where to go for Plan B. But they came out in the second half and put the screws the Pacers, turning defense into offense to get themselves out of the rut. Boston scored 46 points in the second. Indiana managed just 29. That’s your game right there.
This all may be just a formality without Victor Oladipo. The Pacers have had a wonderful season and legitimately pushed Boston for homecourt advantage in this matchup between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the East. But without the injured Oladipo, they just don’t have the offensive creators to consistently break Boston’s defense. Bojan Bogdanovic has been sensational picking up the extra load in Oladipo’s absence but Tyreke Evans has been a huge disappointment, Wes Matthews is really just a spot-up shooter and Darren Collison and Cory Joseph are overmatched the more they’re called upon to score. Joseph had a nice offensive game but Collison and Evans finished 6-of-22 from the field with 6 assists and 4 turnovers.
The Celtics still have some kinks to work out. Although they were able to turn this into a comfortable win, the first half was a bit too emblematic of their regular season struggles. Their offense still feels reactive rather than proactive. A pecking order can be detrimental for some teams. Boston’s players play within themselves, they know their roles. But they don’t always seem confident about when they’re supposed to assert them. Boston will probably work their way through the Pacers. But they better hope they can work out some of these issues along the way.
The Celtics could use Marcus Smart. This was a fantastic defensive performance by Boston but as they were muddling through in the first half, his aggression and intensity was notably missing. Jaylen Brown slid into the starting lineup to replace him and didn’t provide much on the offensive end — 1-of-5 shooting and 3 turnovers — but it is the confidence the Celtics are missing without Smart more than anything else.