ASSOCIATED PRESS — Two teams looking to put together two strong halves meet again Wednesday night when the fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers visit the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Despite their lowest scoring game of the season, the Celtics prevailed 84-74 in the best-of-7 opener by dominating the second half, limiting the Pacers to 29 points after the visitors had taken a 45-38 halftime lead.
Afterward, he wasn’t necessarily proud of the achievement, insisting what comes next in a series is always more important than what’s just happened.
“At this point, it’s just moving on to the next thing,” he said at his postgame press conference. “When you have that kind of mentality, you don’t need to be fixated on mistakes.”
Mistakes were aplenty in Game 1, especially when it came to shooting.
The Celtics shot just 32 percent in the first half, before improving to 41 percent in the second half.
On this night, that was good enough, being that the Pacers followed up a 44-percent first half by missing their first 11 shots of the third quarter.
Just like that, a seven-point halftime lead had turned into a 60-48 deficit.
Outscored 26-8 in the decisive third quarter, Indiana wound up making just eight field goals in the entire second half, going 8-for-38 (21.1 percent).
In the end, guard Wesley Matthews found a positive.
“We’ve got to shake this off and realize there was a lot of good in there,” he said at his postgame press conference. “I don’t think if we played with our eyes closed we could have an eight-point quarter again.”
The 74-point total was 15 points lower than any previous game this season for the Pacers. But it was the third time in their last four games that they were held under 100, a stretch that included a key 117-97 home loss to the Celtics in the final week of the regular season.
The Celtics’ defensive brilliance came despite the absence of Marcus Smart, who is expected to miss the entire series with a torn oblique.
Boston moved Jaylen Brown into his starting spot, yet still managed to play the Pacers almost evenly off the bench, getting outscored just 36-35.
Marcus Morris (20) and Gordon Hayward (10) combined for 30 of the Celtics’ 35 bench points. Boston could be without Al Horford (illness) in Game 2. He was officially listed as questionable Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, the Indiana bench contributed to the team’s poor offensive effort, with the usually reliable Domantas Sabonis (3-for-9), Tyreke Evans (3-for-11) and Doug McDermott (1-for-7) combining to shoot just 7-for-27.
The Celtics are quite familiar with winning the opening game of a playoff series. In fact, they went up 2-0 against all three of their postseason opponents last season, going on to beat Milwaukee 4-3 and
Philadelphia 4-1 before falling to Cleveland 4-3 in the Eastern finals.
The Pacers, meanwhile, have rallied to win the series on two of the last three occasions when they lost Game 1. Interestingly, they’ve gone 0-3 in series over that same span after winning the opener.