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BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are looking to take a two-nothing lead over the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of their opening round playoff series. Game 1 was a throwback to the old days of beat em up basketball where points were at a premium and the team with the strongest will came out on top.
Well, great. Sure, that play looked uglier than it was probably designed because of Wesley Matthewss terrible shot, but it was a play that was contingent on Bogdanovic being about 15 feet away from the three point line as a reset point. As if to add insult to injury, Bogdanovics slow rotation off a pick helped Jayson Tatum get open enough to set up that play to Hayward.
Scoring 84 point will not win a team many games. Holding the Pacers to 74 points was impressive, but its also an anomaly. They hadnt scored fewer than 89 all season, and even with playoff basketball being what it is, its prudent not to expect that to happen again.
There were a lot of adjustments on their end, Brad Stevens said of the Pacers defense. They switched a lot more than they normally do.
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Switching defense is a gamble with certain players on the floor. In last years Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron did everything he could to switch onto Terry Rozier and attack that mismatch. The instant Indiana starts switching, the Celtics can find a target and exploit it.
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One way we saw that happen in Game 1 was Gordon Hayward hunting the smaller Darren Collison (Hayward is 6′8″, Collison is 6 feet even).
The Pacers have to respect Marcus Morris in the left corner and Kyrie Irving on the left wing. When Hayward sets the pick on the switching Collison, the ball is swung up to Al Horford instead of Tatum dumping it in because Horford having the ball there (a) is a threat to score and (b) is a threat to pass to Irving or Morris, so those guys have to stay close to their assignments.
Hayward uses his size and strength advantage to pack Collison down to the rim. From there, the pass is easy, and Hayward is deep enough where thats automatic. If someone from the other side of the floor makes a run over to help, that guys man, Morris or Irving, will get the ball for an open 3.
This isnt some genius-level play that will get Brad Stevens into the Hall of Fame for basketball wizardry. The beauty of this is its simplicity.
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When people talk about ways Hayward helps his team, they never really talk about his size, but he can be a significant advantage against a team with smaller guards. Cory Joseph is 6′3″. Wesley Matthews is 6′5″. Even Tyreke Evans gives up a couple of inches at 6′6″. The Pacers know the Celtics are attacking these mismatches, and its up to them to decide if they want to continue.
Were the ones that are switching, Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. We know that sometimes take advantage of that and we have to have the proper coverage to defend that if they are trying to take advantage of a matchup, whether thats on the perimeter or the post.
From here, the series will shift back to Indianapolis for Games 3 & 4, beginning Friday. Indiana has shown through two games that theyre capable of extending this series, but it will come down to their execution, which hasnt been there through some very key stretches thus far. The Pacers, now 5-15 on the road without Oladipo, can hope to find some of that much needed execution by simply returning home, where theyre 12-6.
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The Celtics can find easy ways to score by using simple plays like this to take advantage of Haywards height and skill if the Pacers continue to try switching on defense.