The Pacers still can’t solve the Celtics, falling at home in Game 3 to go down 0-3 in their first-round series.
Indiana’s offense has improved in each game of this series but still wasn’t able to break the Celtics defense for long enough to take control. In Game 3, they led by as much as five in the second half and kept in close in the fourth quarter before late-game execution doomed them again. Indiana is shooting just 32.7 percent in the fourth quarter in this series with nearly as many turnovers (10) as assists (11).
At this point, the question is whether Indiana can summon enough to push the Celtics to a gentleman’s sweep instead of the traditional 4-0 shellacking.
It was nice to see Jaylen Brown do some things on offense. It’s been a difficult year as a shooter and scorer for Brown, with a significant dip in his 3-point percentage and a diminished ball-handling role with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward healthy. Brown has stepped back into the starting lineup for the injured Marcus Smart and this was the first time in the series he was really able to take advantage of his opportunities and score efficiently. Brown put up 23 points and 7 rebounds but, most importantly, hit 4-of-5 from behind the arc. Consistent outside shooting has been one of the limiting factors for Boston and if Brown can stay hot it makes things much easier for everyone else.
The Celtics have made things really hard for Bojan Bogdanovic. He had a fantastic second half of the season, taking on a larger creation load with Victor Oladipo out but Boston has crowded him aggressively in this series and kept him out of his comfort zone. Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward have all spent significant time defending Bogdanovic and all three have done an admirable job taking away passing lanes and making him take contested shots. The Pacers will have a really interesting decision to make with Bogdanovic, who will be a free agent this summer. He’s been so important to their run this season but the limitations we’ve seen in this series may give them pause in investing in him as a second option when Oladipo returns next year.
Kyrie Irving is cooking. He made only 7-of-19 from the field tonight but added 10 assists and 5 rebounds, has played with energy and effort and kept his postgame comments positive. Even with the rough shooting in Game 3, Irving is averaging 25.3 points, 8.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game, hitting 45.2 percent from the field, 50 percent on 3s and 90 percent from the free throw line. If the Celtics really are going to make a run, they’ll need Irving to be in the middle of everything. So far, he looks up to the challenge.