Boston may well be home for the first round of the playoffs.
Probably against the Indiana Pacers — and if Friday night is any indication we are in for a seriously entertaining series.
This one came down to the final seconds, but this is why the Celtics wanted Kyrie Irving — the man is a closer of the highest order. His driving layup with 0.5 seconds beat the Pacers and lifted the Celtics into the four seed in the East.
The Pacers made some poor choices down the stretch in this game. In their chance to take the lead right before Irving’s shot, they set picks for Darren Collison while Bojan Bogdanovic — Indiana’s leading scorer with 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting — basically stood in the corner as a decoy. (Collison got a good look at an elbow jumper but missed it.)
Then on the final play, Al Horford is working hard to get the ball to Irving and when he does Myles Turner shows out and doubles Irving behind the arc… and then Turner inexplicably slides back over to cover Horford opening up a straight line drive for Irving to the rim. Thaddeus Young starts to help off Jayson Tatum in the corner but is so concerned about a pass to Tatum he never fully commits, so Irving gets to the rim. The odds of a Horford three (35.4 percent from that area of the floor this season) or Tatum three (26.7 percent this season from the right corner) are lower than an Irving layup.
Irving finished with 30 points on the night, Horford pitched in 19, and Aron Baynes had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Bogdanovic led the Pacers with 27, Young had 18.
Indiana and Boston are now tied for the 4/5 seed in the East, with Boston ahead on tiebreakers at the moment. While the two teams have about an equal strength of schedule, Boston has played better of late while the Pacers, 3-7 in their last 10, have come back to earth after losing Victor Oladipo.