Game 3: Boston (2-0) at Indiana (0-2)
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If you bet Indiana to win this series before it began, you clearly weren’t paying attention. Since losing Victor Oladipo to a season-ending injury, the Pacers crushed teams that finished with losing records but got blasted by those that made the playoffs. So, predictably, they are down 2-0 to Boston, and I expect a sweep here – maybe Indiana wins Game 4 if Boston plays with little urgency up 3-0.
There has been a trend in this series. The Pacers play well for at least a half and lead but then go incredibly cold for a quarter. It happened in Game 1 when Indiana scored a franchise playoff-record low eight points in the third as Boston took control. In the Celtics’ 99-91 Game 2 win, Boston was down 82-70 with just under 11 minutes left. Al Horford, who was questionable with an illness, hit a jumper at the 10:54 mark.
That started a run of 16 straight points, with Kyrie Irving scoring the final eight. He finished with a game-high 37 points, although Jayson Tatum hit what would essentially be the clinching shot, a three-pointer from the corner with 50.8 seconds left. Tatum had 26 points.
The Pacers had just 12 fourth-quarter points on Wednesday and simply don’t have a guy who can get an important bucket sans Oladipo. Bojan Bogdanovic had 23 points in Game 2 but no one else more than 15. Myles Turner has flopped in this series, scoring eight points on Wednesday after five in the opener. Domantas Sabonis has been even worse, following up a seven-point opener with just one on Wednesday. Every Indiana bench player had a negative plus/minus rating in Game 2, while every Boston reserve had a positive one.
Indiana was a much better team at home this season (who isn’t?) with a 29-12 record (23-18 ATS), while Boston was just a game over .500 on the road (19-21-1 ATS). The Pacers allowed the fewest points per game at home in the NBA, holding opponents to 100.9 points per game on 43.8 percent shooting (first in the league).
The teams split two games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. On Nov. 3, the Pacers won 102-101 on an Oladipo three-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. He had 24 points and 12 rebounds. The Celtics led 101-97 with 37.2 seconds to go. The loss snapped Boston’s three-game win streak in Indianapolis. On April 5, Boston rolled at Indiana 117-97, which all but clinched the No. 4 seed for the Celtics. Tatum had 22 points and Gordon Hayward 21 off the bench. No Pacers had more than 15 points (Turner).
- Pacers are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Celtics are 10-2-1 ATS in their last 13 Conference Quarterfinals games.
- Under is 5-2 in Pacers last 7 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
I’m frankly at a loss as to why Indiana is favored (yeah, at home I get it). The Celtics are simply better. Boston takes a 3-0 lead in another low-scoring affair.