The four seed vs. five seed matchup of the NBA Playoffs in the Eastern Conference will feature the Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers.
The two teams are quite familiar with each other, meeting twice in the last two weeks of the season, most recently with a 117-97 Celtics win.
Boston has won three of the four regular-season matchups, even though the teams being evenly matched on paper.
Despite a chaotic, inconsistent year, the Boston Celtics managed to snag the fourth seed, and will have home-court advantage in this series. The Celtics are 28-13 at the TD Garden this season.
While many may not expect them to go as far in the playoffs as they were supposed to at the season’s start, the Celtics have all the makings for a championship run: a superstar point guard with championship experience, a deep bench along with a handful of veterans, and great defense.
Even as the fourth seed, Boston can still make it far in the playoffs. Marcus Morris helped anchor the sixth best defense in the league, and Kyrie Irving leads the way offensively, averaging 23.8 points this season.
A key for the Celtics in the playoffs will be how Gordon Hayward plays. In their last meeting with the Pacers, Hayward scored 21 points off the bench on perfect 9-9 shooting.
If Hayward can play consistently well throughout the playoffs as the Celtics’ sixth man, they will be a tough challenge for any higher seed in the East.
While still a successful season, the Pacers were put in a tough situation when All-Star Victor Oladipo went down with a knee injury in January, missing the rest of the season. Despite remaining a strong team even without their best player, Pacers fans must be wondering ‘what could have been’ going into the playoffs.
Led by center Myles Turner, Indiana is one of the strongest defensive teams in the league. Offensively, they have to look for new ways to score in the postseason with Oladipo out. The Pacers are led in scoring by Bojan Bogdanovic with 18 points per game, a career-high.
Six other players score in double-figures. Like Boston, the Pacers have good depth on their roster, as well as several veteran players.
Indiana has surprised many by playing well without Oladipo, and could certainly do so in the playoffs.
Boston and Indiana are both deep and defensively-oriented teams. However, superstar talent tends to become more valuable in the playoffs. Kyrie Irving as the ability to win games on his own, and with Indiana’s would-be answer in Oladipo gone, Boston becomes harder to beat, especially in crunch time.
Indiana does have a chance in this series, especially if Boston’s inconsistencies come back around. The matchup between Turner and Al Horford will be key for Indiana to make sure the Celtics’ big doesn’t facilitate like he normally does.
One major blow for Boston will be the loss of Marcus Smart, who tore his oblique last Sunday and will miss one to two playoff series. Smart is arguably Boston’s best defender, so bench players like Terry Rozier and Semi Ojeleye will have to step up their play.
Despite Smart’s injury, look for the Celtics to use home-court, as well as offensive fire-power to their advantage and advance to the second round, especially if Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown step up their games as they did in last year’s playoffs.
Boston in 6
Featured image credited to Getty Images.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.