The Boston Celtics completed a rare 4-0 sweep in the opening round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs with a Game 4 victory, led by Gordon Hayward’s 20 points off the bench, over the Indiana Pacers 110-106.
The #4 Boston Celtics are expected to face the Greek Freak and the #1 Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Bucks are up 3-0 in their series against the Detroit Pistons, with Game 4 scheduled for Monday evening. The Bucks are a 13-point favorite on the road and should lock up the series.
The Celtics switched a couple of gears once the playoffs began. The team struggled in the second half of the season in the wake of the Anthony Davis trade demand and the fallout from the drama in New Orleans. The playoffs could not have come fast enough for head coach Brad Stevens because his team was on the brink of complete implosion. Now that the playoffs have begun, Stevens is in his element. Plus, he has two healthy All-Stars (Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward) that were not with the squad last year.
“A lot of people downplayed Boston as a team,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “But we knew they would get it right come playoff time.”
The Celtics got it right and they went in for the kill with a four-game sweep of the Pacers.
Tough D in Beantown
Boston came into the postseason as one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. The Celtics allowed only 108 points per game this season. In the playoffs, the Celtics unleashed a total clampdown. They allowed the Pacers to score 100-plus in only one game.
In the first three games, the Pacers averaged only 87 points per game. In Game 1 in Boston, the Pacers scored only 74 points. The final score of 84-74 looked like a boxscore for a Knicks/Heat series in the mid-1990s.
“You have to earn it every time you play the Pacers,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “They just play so hard, and they play so together. If you take your foot off the gas at any point in time, you’re in trouble.”
The Celtics brought the defensive intensity in the second half of every game. There were three instances in which the Pacers were held to 12 or fewer points. The Celtics swarming defense held the Pacers to 8 points in a quarter one instance.
Big Homecoming for Hayward
Gordon Hayward is one of the high school legends. That’s saying something considering he’s from Indiana. Hayward is something of a folk hero in that part of the country. At this point of his career, he’s been struggling to regain his old form after missing last season with a broken leg. It’s been a tough and inconsistent road back for Hayward. However, he stepped up big time in a game that could have easily swung either way.
Hayward came off the bench to score 20 points. He unleashed a late-flurry of three-pointers late in the game to help seal the deal for the Celtics. Hayward went a perfect 3-for-3 from the three-point line during high-leverage situations.
“I knew there was going to be a spark off the bench and that person was Gordon Hayward,” said Kyrie Irving. “This is his city. I’m glad he had a chance to put on a performance like that in a closeout game.”
The Celtics unleashed their stifling defense in the second half. They got just enough offense to pull away to complete the sweep. Marcus Morris added 18 points and 8 rebounds off the bench with a couple key buckets from beyond the arc.
“They got hot,” said Thaddeus Young from the Pacers. “They started making shots and we stopped making shots. That’s one of the biggest thing that’s haunted us through this whole series.”
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Boston Celtics are 15/1 odds to win the NBA title.