The Celtics went into game one of the 2019 NBA playoffs with a lot of uncertainty. Even though they have one of the most talented rosters in the entire league, they have been inconsistent throughout the course of the regular season. They are also going into the playoffs without one of their key defensive players in Marcus Smart.
With all of these things in mind, a lot of people were unsure as to which Boston Celtics team we were going to see going into the postseason. Would it be the team who struggled to string together consecutive wins all season? Or the team that made it to game seven of the Eastern Conference finals less than a year ago?
In game one of their first-round matchup against the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics showed us glimpses of both of those teams.
In the first half, they struggled offensively and turned the ball over multiple times and found themselves down by seven at the end of the half. It was the same uninspired and lackadaisical performance we’ve seen from them all year. Coming out of the halftime break, the Celtics put together one of the most intense defensive efforts in the third quarter that we’ve seen from them all season. They held the Pacers to eight third-quarter points and only allowed two made shots.
As I mentioned, this was done without the defensive presence of Marcus Smart.
In the final box score, the Pacers only had two players score in double digits, and Corey Joseph was their leading scorer with only 14 points. The Pacers were without their superstar guard Victor Olidipo, who suffered a season-ending injury back in January, and the Celtics were not going to let a depleted Pacers team steal game one from them in the Garden.
The Celtics did not play a good game offensively. Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris led the way with 20 points apiece. And Jayson Tatum was the only Celtic who shot above 50% from the field. They only won the game by a score of 84-74, but they found a way to win a game convincingly even though they couldn’t find consistent scoring.
If they would’ve lost game one to the Pacers in Boston, I believe it would have cost them the series. This Celtics team has dealt with morale issues in the locker room when things don’t go their way, and losing to the Pacers without their best player in the first game of the postseason at home would have been a huge blow to the team’s confidence.
Now we know that the Celtics can win those low-scoring, grind-it-out kind of games, but that is not the typical NBA game in this era. Teams like Milwaukee and Philadelphia have a lot of offensive firepower and the Celtics will need to keep up with that offensive pace. They will have two whole days of rest before game two this series to try work out the kinks on offense.
But I believe something lit a fire underneath them in the locker room during halftime of game one, and that will carry over throughout the rest of the series.