Over the last several weeks, there must have been hundreds of NBA analysts and reporters who dubbed Gordon Hayward “the X-Factor” for the Celtics entering the playoffs. Since beating the Warriors on the road by 33 back on March 5th, a game in which Hayward dropped 30 points on 12-16 shooting, the Celtics highest paid player has looked like a new man.
The Celtics defeated the Pacers 110-106 on Easter Sunday behind a team-high 20 point effort from Gordon Hayward, completing a 4-0 series sweep of the Indiana Pacers and their first playoff series sweep since 2011 against the Knicks. Despite the assertion of dominance against the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, many have questioned the legitimacy of the Celtics performance considering it came against an Indiana team without it's best player. However, the Celtics sweeping Indiana after the inconsistency they showed during the regular season shouldn't go under recognized. Here's what you can take away from their dominant showing in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
After both of the last two wins, Kyrie Irving mentioned the team's grittiness as a factor in their success. After Game 1, he told the media that low scoring games like that 84-74 win are "where gritty individuals make their mark", and he repeated that sentiment after the team's 99-91 Game 2 win, calling it "a gritty win". Game 3 in Indiana proved no different as the Celtics let another early lead disappear, but executed down the stretch as they've proven to be far better at doing than Indiana throughout this series.
Back and forth. At different times during the season we’ve all been on each side of whether or not we believe Kyrie Irving will be staying in Boston. I mean, he told us he would. He said the words. He asked for our approval. However, on more than one occasion throughout this season, it seemed as if he was fed up or uninterested with the city and/or this Celtics team. So.. what exactly will it take to keep Kyrie playing in green when this year comes to a close?
The Celtics have turned a corner at the right time and found their toughness. Boston has taken an imposing 2-0 lead, winning 99-91 in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers. It was a fun, back and forth game, but the C’s (specifically the Big 3 of Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward) never slowed up. The NBA playoffs is a different game and teams that win need stars. Kyrie and Tatum's starts couldn't have been any bigger, nailing huge shots left and right while demonstrating wise and sound decision making when it mattered the most. The Celtics solidified themselves as an Eastern Conference team to be reckoned with.
Playoffs Provide Struggling Morris and Rozier with Opportunity to Change the Narrative Ahead of Free Agency
With the extra pressure that playoff basketball brings, it also brings more attention and thus, more recognition for those players who step up in the games that mean the most. No matter what a player has done in the regular season, the narrative about them can be completely altered either positively or negatively based on how they perform under the spotlight. We’ve witnessed this for ourselves with several Celtics players over the last several years.
With Marcus Smart deemed out for somewhere between 3-6 weeks entering the playoffs, the biggest question for this Celtics team was how they were going to make up for the loss of his defense as well as the loss of those intangible traits he possesses such as his intensity and heart. Well, in Sunday's 84-74 win, the Celtics were able to do just that. If you told someone who didn't watch the game that the Celtics only scored 84 points and they didn't have Marcus Smart to help on the defensive end, they would probably think that the Celtics lost by a margin of at least 15-20 points. Instead, they held the Pacers to the lowest score of any Celtics opponent this season by embodying Marcus Smart in his absence.
It's been well known for a couple of weeks now that the Celtics first round playoff opponent would likely be the Indiana Pacers. Now, after two match-ups in the final two weeks of the regular season, the Celtics and Pacers are set to square off in Game 1 tomorrow at 1:00 on TNT. After a rollercoaster of a season for both the Celtics and us fans, there's no way to know for sure what to expect from the team as they enter the postseason; however, the way that the Celtics played in their regular season match-ups with the Pacers provides plenty of reason for optimism when it comes to their chances in Round 1.
The Boston Celtics were without Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart, but that did not stop the C’s from overcoming a 21-point deficit to defeat the Washington Wizards 116-110 in Washington, D.C.
The Celtics blew out the Indiana Pacers 117-97 in one of their most impressive and important wins of the season to date. With it being such a meaningful win in terms of seeding heading into the playoffs and obtaining the mental advantage against a probable first round opponent, the outcome will have a serious impact on both teams moving forward beyond just where Game 1 of a playoff series will be played. Here's what to takeaway from last night's statement win by Boston: