The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers will look forward to facing each other in the first round of the upcoming NBA Playoffs. The teams will have a unique series, as they will have played each other twice in the last week or two of the regular season.
Facing off on Friday, Boston narrowly defeated Indy behind Kyrie Irving’s 30 points and a game-winning layup. A week later the teams will meet again, this time on the Pacer’s home-court.
Currently at the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, many would consider this year a let-down for the Celtics. Coming into the year with a healthy Irving and Gordon Hayward, Boston seemed like a lock for the first or second seed.
Instead, the Celtics have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league.
While fourth in the standings, don’t assume that Boston will be ousted by a top seed in the playoffs. While the regular season has been rocky, the Celtics still undoubtedly have one of the best rosters in the East.
With Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart providing tenacity off the bench, along Irving and Al Horford’s leadership, Boston has all the pieces needed for a title run.
The real question is can everyone come together and play well for the duration of the playoffs.
No Oladipo, No Problem
Since losing their best player, All-Star Victor Oladipo, the Pacers have surprised many by maintaining a good record. Without the team’s de-facto leader, Indiana has remained a tough team that can still potentially upset a higher seed in the playoffs.
At the fifth seed, the Pacers should still feel like they can beat anybody in the East.
A mix of veteran players like Wesley Matthews and Tyreke Evans with younger players such as Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, Indiana, like Boston, has depth on their side.
Being without Oladipo may prove to be challenging in the playoffs, given his offensive ability. But the Pacers have proved many wrong so far, and could continue to do so in the playoffs.
Friday’s game will be the final preview of the Celtics against the Pacers before the postseason. With a Celtics January blowout as the outlier, the other two meetings between the teams have been decided by two points or less.
Boston and Indiana are nearly as evenly matched as possible. They both rank in the middle of the pack offensively (Boston at 10th and Indiana at 16th) and are both in the top 10 defensively. The Celtics and Pacers have an identical record going into Friday’s game.
While the playoffs are a different situation and may favor Boston given their experience, Friday’s matchup will feature a close game between teams that will make for a great series.
Indiana will even up the season series at home: 113-109
Featured image credited to USA Today.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.