Celtics strike first in NBA playoff showdown with Pacers

Celtics strike first in NBA playoff showdown with Pacers
BOSTON—The Celtics have been at their best this season when they are forcing turnovers, spacing the floor and knocking down outside shots.

They found out in their Game 1 win over the Pacers that they are equipped to win an ugly, physical game as well.

The Celtics’ Kyrie Irving runs into resistance from Myles Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic in Sunday’s Game 1 home win over Indiana.  (Winslow Townson / AP)

Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris each scored 20 points, and the Boston rallied in the second half to the beat Indiana Pacers 84-74 on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Jayson Tatum finished with 15 points. Al Horford added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward had 10 points. It was the first playoff game since 2017 for Irving and Hayward after each missed last year’s post-season with injuries.

“I just try to be aggressive on the ball, be in the right spots,” Irving said. “I just really want to be aggressive and really be the head of the snake.”

Game 2 goes Wednesday night in Boston.

The Pacers led by 11 points in the first half but had just eight points in the third quarter. The Celtics capitalized and led by as many as 22 in the fourth. The 29 points that Indiana scored in the second half were its worst of the season.

Cory Joseph had 14 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic was the lone Pacers starter in double figures with 12 points.

“We held them to 84 points. We just didn’t score enough,” Indiana’s Wesley Matthews said.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Pacers coach Nate McMillan both said before the series that the more physical team would have the edge. After a shaky start, it turned out to be Boston.

Boston opened the third quarter with a 22-3 run to take a 60-48 lead. The Pacers didn’t get their first field goal of the second half until Joseph dropped in a layup with 3:38 left in the third. They finished the quarter 2 for 19 from the field.

“I thought we kind of lost our way,” McMillan said. “They got the momentum and really never let that go.”

Likewise, Stevens said his team found something in that quarter.

“They missed some shots, but we were really connected,” he said. “We were really playing hard. We were really flying around.”

Boston’s run included a brief appearance by Celtics hall of famer and former Pacers front office executive Larry Bird, who was shown on the big screen during a timeout.
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