Irving To Lead Celtics One Game Closer To Sweeping Pacers

Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers

Friday 8:30 P.M. ET

Free NBA Pick: Celtics ATS

Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

The Pacers return home to Indianapolis frustrated after dropping two winnable games in Boston to open their first-round playoff series. In each loss, Indiana’s offense went cold for an entire quarter, allowing the Celtics to eke out two victories and retain homecourt advantage in the best-of-seven series.

In Game 1, the Pacers had an abysmal third quarter, scoring just eight points in the frame on 2-of-19 shooting. In Game 2 on Wednesday, they actually racked up 29 points in the third to build an 11-point lead, only for the offense to go cold in the fourth.

After Tyreke Evans’ 3-pointer with 11:20 remaining pushed the lead to 12, Indiana didn’t score for the next 7:56, opening the door for Boston to reel off 16 unanswered points. Indiana eventually retook the lead after back-to-back threes by Bojan Bogdanovic, only for the Celtics to close the game on a 10-0 run and secured a 99-91 win.

One player who is particularly struggling to find a rhythm offensively so far in the series is sixth man Domantas Sabonis. The 22-year-old center averaged 14.1 points per game and collected a team-high 30 double-doubles during the regular season, but has not been nearly as productive against Boston.

Sabonis had seven points on 3-of-9 shooting in Game 1 and then attempted just one shot in 22 minutes in Game 2, finishing with just one point (though he did tally five rebounds, five assists, and two steals). The Celtics are clearly scheming to limit Sabonis’ production, meaning Pacers coach Nate McMillan will need to figure out some adjustments to get his big man more involved.

As the series shifts to Indiana, expect for the Celtics playoff experience to prove invaluable as the team who has been there before will rise to the occasion. The Pacers were only 17-16 ATS as home favorites on the season and as long as Sabonis continues to struggle off the bench, the Pacers will be at a serious talent deficit for the remainder of the series. Expect the Celtics to not only cover, but to get the upset on the road.