Kyrie Irving and the Celtics Seek Their Highest Level – The Ringer

Kyrie Irving and the Celtics Seek Their Highest Level - The Ringer
Celtics need the Game of Atonement vs. Pacers to begin… now
Its the continuation of a first-round Eastern Conference playoff matchup up in Beantown. The fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers are on the road as they travel to face the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics in Game 2 of their best of seven set Wednesday night. Boston rallied in the second half to win the opening game fo the series, 84-74, Sunday afternoon to draw first blood in the set. The Celtics lead the all-time regular season series 98-79 and took three of four meetings this season, including a 117-97 road win on April 5. Boston has won three of the five previous playoff series and has a 14-12 edge in victories though it was the Pacers taking a 4-3 win in the first round of the 2005 playoffs the last time the teams met. Indiana Pacers Hoping to Square Series at One Indiana had their chances as Boston looked disinterested for the majority of the first half. Once the teams went into the locker room for intermission and came back for the second half, all the momentum the Pacers had was forgotten. Indiana now has to try and get back to the team that played in the first half in Game 1 and not the one that sputtered in the second half if they hope to avoid a 2-0 series deficit heading back home. The Pacers were knotted after the opening quarter and held a seven-point edge at halftime before things unraveled. Indiana was scoreless in the first 4:58 of the third quarter to lose the lead and never recovered.

The Pacers were held to a dismal 33.3 percent from the floor in the game and were even worse from beyond the arc. Indiana knocked down only six of 27 three-point attempts and was pounded 55-42 on the glass, in addition to converting only 12 of 21 free throw attempts. The Pacers were led by Cory Josephs 14 off the bench while Bojan Bogdanovic was the only other player in double figures as he finished with 12. Indiana has to get more production from their starting five: other than Bogdanovic, who was only four of 11 from the floor, the other four starters combined to shoot 11 of 33 from the floor, including two of 10 from beyond the arc and totaled 26 points. The bench wasnt much better: if you take out Josephs points, the rest of that group combined for 22 points in 97 minutes. Domantas Sabonis (seven points, nine rebounds, three of nine shooting) and Tyreke Evans (eight points, three of 11 shooting in 17 minutes) have to be bigger contributors. Boston Celtics Seek to Grab 2-0 Series Advantage Boston shook off a lethargic start by coming out of the locker room for the second half motivated. The Celtics took control of the game early in the third quarter and dropped the hammer on the Pacers to protect home court in the series opener. Boston has to shake off the complacency factor of being the better team on paper and make it translate on the court. The Celtics trailed by seven at the half before starting the second half on an 11-0 run. That was part of a 22-3 Boston run over the first 8:04 of the third quarter as they opened a 60-48 advantage. The Celtics lead was 13 after three quarters and was as many as 22 in the fourth quarter before the team went scoreless over the final 3:34, allowing Indiana to make the final score more respectable.

Weve seen glimpses of Scary Terry in 14 starts this year. He posted a +11 net rating along with 5.0 more points, 1.6 more rebounds and 2.5 more assists per game than in his bench role. Those starts all came in the absence of Kyrie Irving. With Marcus Smart out, conventional wisdom suggests that Rozier would slide into those minutes, but Irvings here to play nearly the entirety of every playoff game and there may not be as big an opportunity for Terry to be as scary as he was in last years post season.

Terry Rozier knocks down a double-clutch 3-pointer to end the third quarter and earns tonight's Play of the Game honors! pic.twitter.com/YqQpzIIEAr

The Celtics struggled finding good looks at the bucket and when they did get one, they had a hard time knocking down the shots. Boston hit only 36.4 percent from the field, including 10 of 28 three-point attempts, in the contest. The Celtics did control the boards by a 55-42 margin and converted 18 of their 22 free throw attempts in the game. Boston has to be better with ball handling as they committed 17 turnovers in the contest. Marcus Morris (seven rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (seven assists) each had 20 points to lead the Celtics in the win, though Irving was just six of 17 from the floor. Jayson Tatum put up 15 points while Gordon Hayward (seven rebounds, four assists) and Al Horford (11 rebounds) each had 10 in the win. Jaylen Brown (one of five from the floor, zero for three from three-point range, two points in 28 minutes) and Terry Rozier (1 of 6 from the field, 1 of 3 from long range, five points in 18 minutes) have to be better offensively to help step up for the missing Marcus Smart. Notable Trends  

Share Share Stevens set to play Rozier and Irving more together tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports Terry Rozier ran off the Auerbach Center floor this week and declared that Scary Terry is back. He said that hes needed now, and its true, but he will likely need a new nickname.

Best hope for Terry Rozier revival could be in Celtics defense

Indiana played solid basketball in the first half against the Celtics but couldnt recover after Boston came out swinging to start the second half. The Pacers now have to try and regroup after being suffocated offensively in the opener. Its games like the opener where the loss of Victor Oladipo is felt the most. He could find a way to get looks and deliver buckets when Indiana really needed them. Without him, the Pacers dont have that reliable go-to guy who can drive to the bucket as well as knock down perimeter shots. Bogdanovic can hit shots but hes more of a spot-up type of guy as opposed to a slasher. Boston figured things out in the second half and, as we saw in the opening two rounds last season, they are tough to beat at home. Look for the Celtics to prevail here to take a 2-0 series advantage.

Consider this early first-quarter sequence in which Horford found himself isolated on Pacers guard Darren Collison. Alone on the wing, Collison got fancy with his dribble and Horford braced for a drive. Bostons big man kept shuffling his feet and Collison couldnt find an opening before electing to pull up from about 15 feet. Leaning in as Horford raised his arms vertically to avoid fouling, Collison lost the ball and Horford dove on the floor to tip it to Baynes for a turnover.

How the Celtics channeled their inner Marcus Smart in Game 1 win

We saw a ton of bricks in the opening game of the series, to the point where you probably could have built a decent sized apartment building with all the missed shots. The game fell massively under the total for the opening game of the series and one has to think that defense is going to be the name of the game again here. Indiana has to develop some solid secondary scoring options on the offensive end of the floor. Can Bogdanovic get on track and help carry the Pacers offensively in this one?

With the game tied at 45 early in the third quarter, Bogdanovic caught the ball near the top of the arc with Brown chasing. Brown managed to get over the top of an oncoming screen before Domantas Sabonis could get set and denied Bogdanovics initial attempt to drive. Bogdanovic eventually accelerated to his right but this time Aron Baynes shuffled over with help, forcing Bogdanovic to give up the ball.

The under is 6-1 in the Pacers’ last 7 Wednesday games, 9-2 in their last 11 road games vs. a team with a winning home record, 7-2 in their last 9 Conference Quarterfinals games and 26-8-1 in their last 35 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600. Given the way that the defense controlled things in the opening game of the series, this one stays under the total as well.

If Sundays Game 1 was any indication, the Celtics are hoping an uptick in intensity throughout the roster will help fill Smarts void. The Celtics leaned heavy on a trio of wings to chase Bogdanovic but everyone on the roster seemed to ratchet up their defensive play and Boston produced one of its finest defensive efforts of the season.

Boston turned things around in the second half of the game in the opener and they showed that they know how to turn things on in the postseason. The Celtics have to avoid being complacent like they did in the opening half of Game 1. Boston has the talent advantage here and the Pacers struggled to get their offense going in the contest. The Pacers aren’t clicking offensively right now and that works against them. The Celtics get the upper hand at the half here.

Brown wasnt perfect – Bogdanovic beat him in the opening minutes for a layup – but the effort rarely waned. The Celtics ultimately limited the Pacers to two third-quarter field goals – only one of which actually went through the cylinder, another was a goaltend – while rallying ahead in the frame.

We saw a low scoring opening half of the contest in Game 1 as both teams had serious issues putting points on the board. Indiana posted just 29 points in the second half of the game, including only eight in the third quarter as they went ice cold. Neither team did much on the offensive end of the floor in the opening game and we’re looking at a pair of tough defensive units. This one is another defensive struggle and it ends up under the total at the half as points are tough to come by.

All predictions are made well in advance of game time. Dont bet this pick before calling the free Winners And Whiners update line to make sure the pick is still good (recorded message): 1-213-205-3114

When the Celtics announced that Smart would miss 4-6 weeks with an oblique tear, the immediate concern was not only how the team would defend Pacers sharpshooting wing Bojan Bogdanovic but also account for all the hustle plays that Smart has made his calling card.

Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.

Thanks in part to a dominating third quarter, the Celtics limited the Pacers to 74 points. The Pacers shooting splits of 33.3 FG% / 22.2 3PT% / 57.1 FT% were ghastly and helped the Celtics win a game in which they shot a cringeworthy 36.4 percent overall.

BOSTON — As much as coaches and players talk about staying in the moment in the playoffs, they sure dont waste much time going all Bill Belichick on us when it comes to moving on.

Minutes after Bostons Game 1 win over Indiana, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was already laying out the need-to-get-better blueprint for Game 2 on Wednesday.

“This is not a series for the timid, weve known that going in,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “This is a heck of a team with a heck of a coach and the minute you let your foot off the gas or you dont play the right way youre going to get beat.”

A similar scene was playing out in the Pacers locker room, which is understandable considering they held Boston to just 84 points and still lost by double figures.

According to the NBAs advanced tracking data, the trio of Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum joined forces to defend Bogdanovic on 58 of his 68 defended possessions and that triumvirate allowed a mere 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting.

As much as you will hear players and coaches talk about the playoffs being a game of survival, its also a Game of Atonement for all involved, regardless of the outcome.

Hayward held Bogdanovic scoreless in 17 possessions, while Tatum was credited with doing the same on 10 possessions (Tatum, though, was beat by Bogdanovic on a layup in the second half but wasnt tagged the primary defender on the play).

Heres a look at some key areas that both teams didnt do as well as they would have liked in Game 1, with the goal being to atone for those shortcomings in Game 2.

I just think that just on the offensive end there were going to be some things that were going to happen. But, defensively, I knew that our length, our versatility were going to be a positive for us, especially in this series.”

Horford had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds along with five assists. But there was a sense in the moments following Bostons Game 1 win, that they probably could have utilized Horford in an even more meaningful way.

Baynes trusted Brown to stick with Bogdanovic and stayed attached to roll man Myles Turner. When Bogdanovic tried to thread a pass to the paint, Al Horford shuffled over to further disrupt and Tatum ended up with a steal.

“We need to do a better job of giving him space,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who added, “and getting him into advantageous action as a team and as a coaching staff, and so that is what we will try to figure out.”

Bogdanovic finished with 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting overall but the Celtics limited him to three 3-point attempts and he missed all of them, thanks to the premium put on staying attached and contesting his shots.

When Stevens talks about “advantageous action” for Horford, the one matchup that worked against the Pacers most of this season, is getting him the ball on the block when matched up against Thaddeus Young.

In the four regular-season games plus Sundays Game 1 matchup, Young has defended Horford for 95 possessions.

“I expected [the defensive intensity],” said Irving, who dove on the floor chasing a steal in the third quarter, showcasing his own Smart-like grit at a time when Boston was taking control of the game. 

He has scored a total of 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field while the Celtics as a team have scored a total of 110 points.

The Celtics were a bit scattered at this point but raced to find their matchups, including Brown, who was back in front of Bogdanovic by the time he got the ball back on the wing with 11 on the shot clock.

And the idea of putting a different defender on him doesnt exactly make limiting Horfords impact any less.

Its the sort of game that Smart would have loved. He took to Twitter after Sundays game to write, “Hate not being out there. As a TEAM we can do anything. Lets get Game 2. One at a time.”

In Indianas Nov. 3 win over Boston, Myles Turner spent the most time (36 possessions) guarding Horford, who still scored nine points on 4-for-10 shooting against Turner in addition to Boston scoring a total of 27 points.

Tatum, Irving, and Hayward each generated two steals while Tatum had a monster block on Thad Young late in the second quarter when the Pacers were looking to extend a double-digit lead.

And in Bostons Jan. 9 win, Domantas Sabonis spent a Pacers-high 30 possessions on Horford, who scored four points on 2-for-4 shooting but dished out an eye-popping eight assists.

The first half of Game 1 was uncharacteristically full of mistakes by Boston, resulting in 10 first-half turnovers that led to 11 points for the Pacers. Keep in mind this Celtics team ranked third during the regular season with just 12.8 turnovers per game.

But on a night when very little went according to how Indiana wanted, their defense – particularly when it came to forcing turnovers – was on point.

Thats not all that surprising when you consider Indiana ranked third in the NBA in turnovers caused (15.6) per game.

Doing a better job of limiting those turnovers will indeed be a point of emphasis for Boston between now and Wednesday nights tip-off.

Going forward, the Boston Celtics need Kyrie Irving to be a more efficient scorer than what we saw in Game 1. He shared game-high scoring honors of 20 points with Marcus Morris but he did so on a less-than-efficient shooting night in which he successfully converted just 6-of-17 field goal attempts.

Despite Irving struggling to make shots he normally makes, the Celtics had to be encouraged by what the six-time All-Star was able to do from a defensive standpoint.

His defensive rating of 74.6 was third among players to log at least 30 minutes of court time, and was tops among all guards on the floor.

And while defending at such a high level is certainly a huge plus for the Irving and the Marcus Smart-less Celtics, at the end of the day Irving knows as well as anyone that his ability to score will be what ultimately puts the Celtics over the top as a team. And the more efficient he is in doing that, the better Bostons chances become of having a deep postseason run.

It sounds simple, but a big part of Indianas problems in Game 1 was their inability to knock down shots. The Pacers connected on just 33.3 percent of their field goal attempts, the worst shooting percentage among NBA teams in Game 1 matchups.

No surprise that the Pacers are also at the bottom among playoff teams when it comes to offensive rating (77.0) and are among the worst when it comes to 3-point shooting (22.2 percent, 13th among 16 playoff teams).

“It wasnt a lack of effort; it was a lack of shot-making,” said Indianas Wes Matthews. “Ultimately, what doomed us was that third quarter.”

While that was indeed an outlier for them shooting, it wasnt like they were lighting it up in the other three quarters of play, either.

Bojan Bogdanovic has been the Indiana Pacers best scorer, but the Celtics have been able to keep him under wraps in recent games.

In Game 1, the Celtics used nine different defenders on Bogdanovic, although Jaylen Brown spent the lions share of the game defending him.

Bogdanovic would score just 12 points, with just two of points coming while Brown defended him for what was 31 of 68 possessions.

“They did a pretty good job,” Bogdanovic said. “Its playoff basketball; theyre grabbing, holding. At the end of the day I have to do a better job to get open.”

And that means doing a better job of utilizing his teammates when it comes to setting screens. From there, he also sees the need for him to better utilize switches to his advantage.

And impactful. Because if hes struggling to score, the Pacers are in deep trouble just being able to compete, let alone win a game in this series.

On the road, any chance to get easy points has to be maximized. In addition to a ton of missed shots from the field, the Pacers also came away feeling as though they also shot themselves in the foot with one brick after another from the free throw line.

Now the Pacers have not been a great free throw shooting team all season, so to see them struggle in Game 1 wasnt a total shock.

But as much as they have had their free throw issues of the past, those issues werent nearly as problematic as what we saw in Game 1.

During the regular season, Indiana shot 75.1 percent from the free throw line, which ranked 22nd in the NBA.

Looking at the number of free throw attempts (23.4) Indiana averages this season relative to how many they took in Game 1 (21), the Pacers probably missed about four more than they normally would.

Four of those misses (on six attempts) came in the second quarter when Indiana was in control of the game and had the potential to extend their double-digit lead even more.

Those misses allowed Boston to hang around long enough to get their act together, go on a run and leave the Pacers playing the “What if …” game as they lick their wounds from a 10-point loss in Game 1 that was fueled in part by their inability to make easy shots… like free throws.


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