The Boston Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their eastern conference first round series with a final score of 94-84. Throughout the first half, the Pacers controlled the game allowing them to go into the halftime break with a 45-38 lead.
Yet, the third quarter would be the turning point, as the Pacers would go scoreless for nine minutes to begin the quarter, having their seven point halftime lead quickly change to a 19 point deficit by the fourth quarter.
Coach Nate McMillan commented on his team’s performance in the second half during his postgame press conference saying “We didn’t establish ourselves in that third quarter, the turnovers led to poor execution, and I think we really lost our way in that third quarter.”
Although, the second half was lopsided there is no reason to believe the Celtics will sweep the Pacers the rest of the series. Indiana still has a legitimate chance at winning this series and these are the reasons why.
Pacers are still on schedule
The goal of every team that starts a playoff series on the road is to split the first two games. Of course losing Game 1 puts more pressure on the Pacers to win the next outing, but they’re still on schedule with the objective to split the first two games.
Nonetheless, if Indiana finds itself down 2-0 heading into Game 3, they still can fall back on that game being at home. At home the Pacers went 29-12, which ranked top 10 in the NBA. Playing at home the Pacers should feed off the crowd and play a lot better than they did in game one.
In addition, the Celtics have not been a model of consistency all season. Post All-Star break Boston was only 12-12, including two four game losing streaks. So, we cannot expect Boston to all of a sudden string together three straight wins to sweep Indiana.
Also, after being dominated in the second half, the underdog narrative only increases for the Pacers in this series. Without their star Victor Oladipo the Pacers are still playing with house money.
Indiana had a historically bad 3rd quarter
As mentioned in the introduction, this game was completely changed in the third quarter. Let’s provide some numbers to show how horrific this third quarter was for the Pacers. Indiana only made two field goals in the entire quarter. Additionally, Indiana finished with just eight points by the end of the third quarter.
Aside from just the third quarter, Indiana had a bad shooting night overall. Nobody on the Pacers scored over 15 points in Game 1. The team’s leading scoring Bojan Bogdanovic, who averages 18 points per game, only managed 12 points on 4-11 shooting from the field.
As a team Indiana shot bad on all levels. The Pacers shot 33 percent from the field, 22 percent from three and a poor 57 percent from the free throw line. Despite Boston being an elite defensive team, its doubtful Indiana will have this bad a shooting night in this series again.
“I think the biggest factors that killed us was the third quarter, we were outscored 26-8, and free throws killed us.” Thaddeus Young said.
Pacers defense was outstanding in game one
Looking on the positive side of what the Pacers did, we must look at their stellar defensive performance. Against a Boston team with this much offensive firepower, Indiana managed to hold them to under 90 points.
Furthermore, Indiana forced Boston into 20 turnovers; the problem was Indiana only score 13 points off those turnovers. Moreover, Kyrie Irving was the only member of the Celtics to score 20 points.
Boston, much like Indiana, struggled shooting as a collective, as they only outshot Indiana in free throw shooting. Indiana held Boston to 36 percent from the field and from behind the arc.
Its easy to overreact to what occurred in one game. Boston is already heavily favored, and it appeared when they turn on the proverbial switch in the second half, they dominated the Pacers.
However, if Indiana puts on another defense performance like they did in Game 1, and hits shots like they did in the first half, this series could easily be 1-1 heading to Indiana for game three.