IN A NUTSHELL
Sweeps in playoff series are often harder to secure than the games’ final scores or stats suggest. (Consider the perverse misery that was last night’s Houston-Utah game: Houston walked away with the W but the contest was a vile pettiness-drenched brickapalooza; nobody won it.) So if I told you I was confident in the Boston Celtics sweeping the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 of this first round, I’d be lying, 3-0 lead or not.
Like every other game in this series, this came down to the wire, becoming a foregone conclusion only when the Cs fired off an 18-5 run midway through the fourth quarter that the Pacers had no answer for. Due to the bench attack spearheaded by Gordon Hayward’s 20 points, Jayson Tatum getting hot at just the right time after a lukewarm game and the grounding influence of Al Horford, Boston weathered Indiana’s storm of mini-runs to win the game 110-106 and advance to the playoffs’ next round.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- Defense was the straw that stirred the drink for the Celtics in much of Game 4., because keeping the paint clogged with bodies made life reeeeaaal hard for the Pacers. They rely on Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young and Domantas Sabonis for a lot of offense with Victor Oladipo out—those guys can shoot the jumper, but it’s hardly their favorite thing. Having Bojan Bogdanovic as your only major shooting threat is a problem!
- Most times when the Celtics click on that end of the floor, it emboldens them to move with confidence on the other. This game was no different.
- What this game also came down to was bench strength. Indiana’s ain’t bad, with Tyreke Evans finally waking up after a relatively broke-ass season, Sabonis always contributing and even shaky scorers like Cory Joseph playing tough defense. But Boston’s is decidedly better, with Hayward, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris scoring 49 points on their own.
- Which brings us to THE GAMER. Despite the brutal posterization by Turner, Hayward had his most meaningful game in a Celtics uniform (20-3-3-2-1) on both ends of the floor, and played at the contest’s most critical junctures. Brad Stevens may well start him against Milwaukee to combat their fearsome length, but if he can maintain this level of production he’ll be effective no matter what.
WHAT WENT WRONG
- So many turnovers! There were 10 in the first half alone and 16 for the game.
- Even more notably, the Cs at times had the same problem they’ve had much of this series—intense struggles to sustain momentum. Sweep or no sweep, Boston had to compete much harder for this than we may have expected.
- These became pronounced during the third quarter, manifesting principally as defensive lapses and blown opportunities for second-chance points, allowing the Pacers to establish a small lead, which they maintained until very late in the frame.
- Kyrie had a ho-hum game offensively and defensively. That said, I’m not reading much into it because he’s been outstanding in every other game. His blood will be all the way up for the Bucks.
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS
Hayward drunken wuxia football pass then ROZIER DUNK KING:
THE GAMER IS CONFIDENT:
A glorious Uncle Drewing of Thad Young:
TATUM DUNK KING (and very strange broom imitation by Jaylen Brown, who’s been a strong starter in place of the injured SMARF):