The Celtics won ugly in their first playoff game against the Pacers, but it’s preferable to losing ugly. Just ask Indiana. Boston proved they can get up off the mat after being knocked down and play physical if that’s what needed. Well, a little muscle never hurt any team and that’s what the doctor ordered when they defeated Indiana 84-74, in what could only be described as a game between two offenses that were nothing short of offensive.
If you were to peruse the best online sportsbooks over at Sportsbook Review, you would find that one of the very best among them, Intertops , was dealing the C’s as 7 ½ point favorites in Game 1 with a total of about 210, depending on what time you went shopping for numbers. Imagine that, the oddsmakers believed these teams would combine for somewhere in the vicinity of 210 points when in fact, they managed only 158 between them. If you’re combing the internet for early numbers on Wednesday’s Game 2 then look no further than SBR Odds, where Intertops is once again installing the Celtics as 7 ½ point home chalk, however, the total has dropped markedly to 203 in that game.
If you’re a glass-half-full kind of guy then you can take solace in the fact that the Green deserved their victory, despite their offense’s horrendous shooting, because the defense suffocated the Pacers in the second half, limiting Indiana to just 29 points. However, for those of us who are far more skeptical, the Celtics shot a dismal 36 percent and had a whopping 20 turnovers. And in addition, the Pacers had themselves to blame as much as any defensive wizardry from Boston, as they continually missed open shots without a Celtics’ defender to be found. That’s not to say the C’s didn’t play very good defense, but the narrative has been hyperbolic because the Pacers shot a dreadful 33 percent yet committed seven fewer turnovers than Boston.
Okay, so we know the boys in green can rock with a physical team like the Pacers, but can they roll through this first-round and contend against a far more talented opponent? If you’re not sure, then join the club. It’s tough to tell what this team is really all about. We know Kyrie is a superstar because he routinely plays like one but what about the other max contract guy, Gordon Hayward? Yes, we’ve seen glimpses of greatness, but it’s been about as often as a full moon and impossible to predict. What we can give Hayward credit for is accepting his reduced role on the bench without responding like a diva whose name has been removed from the marquee.
But the real problem this season has been Jaylen Brown and it was evident again on Sunday afternoon. Head coach Brad Stevens started Brown in place of the injured Marcus Smart, but he was quickly supplanted by Marcus Morris and Gordon Hayward. Morris went on to bucket 20 points while Hayward ended the night with 10 but Brown was a dismal 1-of-5 from the field for two points in 28 minutes of action. Talk about ugly.
Brad Stevens had this to say about the Game 1 victory, “Those guys guarded their butts off. That game looked like a 1980s playoff game in a lot of ways with the score. But it’s tough. Those guys are physical. …We have a lot to get better at.”
Indeed, the Celtics do need to get better and if they expect to win when scoring under a hundred points then they should think again. Prior to Sunday’s victory, the C’s had not won a game this season when scoring less than triple digits. We know the Celtics can beat a struggling team without its leading scorer (Victor Oladipo) but had they met any other Eastern Conference playoff opponent on Sunday, besides perhaps the Detroit Pistons, Boston would be down a game, and not up one. Hopefully, the offense wakes up in Game 2 and we’re talking about a series sweep but until then, it’s anybody’s guess with this team.