Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, April 14, 2019
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics endured a roller coaster of a season in which they struggled to meet high expectations, but the team does have homecourt advantage — and a clean slate — entering their best-of-seven first-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers. The Celtics won six of their last eight games during the regular season and defeated the Pacers twice in that stretch to gain the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“The competition level is at an all-time high, by any means necessary you have to go out there and get a win,” All-Star guard Kyrie Irving told reporters of the postseason. “It’s just something to play for, it’s basketball, true basketball.” Boston suffered a big loss before the series could begin with the news that starting guard Marcus Smart would miss at least four weeks with a torn oblique, robbing the team of a top defender. Indiana has been playing without a premier guard for months after losing All-Star Victor Oladipo in January, and it was just 8-14 down the stretch. This marks the sixth playoff meeting between the two teams and the first since 2005, when the Pacers won a first-round matchup in seven games.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Indiana, NBCS Boston
ABOUT THE PACERS (48-34): In a game that went a long way toward determining who gets homecourt advantage in the series, Indiana fell by 20 points at home to Boston on April 5, and the team knows it needs to be tougher and more physical to compete with a talented Celtics team. “… You either play that way, or you don’t,” forward Domantas Sabonis told the Indianapolis Star. “We just have a group of guys that want to be physical, and we know the playoffs are usually a lot more aggressive, a lot more – I don’t know what the word is – but a lot more tougher. You get to be more physical, you know?” Bojan Bogdanovic leads the active Pacers in scoring (18 points per game), while six others average at least 10 points and Sabonis leads the way on the glass (9.3).
ABOUT THE CELTICS (49-33): Smart’s absence leaves a big void, especially on the defensive end, and others know they will need to fill the gaps to survive without him. “He’s a huge part of our defense, so many little things that he does for us on both ends of the floor,” forward Gordon Hayward told reporters of Smart. “Obviously, defensively, he’s one of our best defenders. It’s unfortunate so we’re going to have to all step up.” Hayward has done just that in recent weeks and averaged 16.9 points on 62 percent shooting over the last seven games of the regular season, including a 9-for-9 performance in the rout at Indiana earlier this month.
1. Irving, who — along with Hayward — missed last season’s playoffs due to injury, has averaged 23.9 points in 52 career postseason games.
2. Pacers C Myles Turner averaged 14 points and eight rebounds against Boston this season.
3. Celtics SG Jaylen Brown, expected to replace Smart in the starting lineup, averaged 16.7 points on 52.8 percent shooting against Indiana this season.