Last Updated: 2019-04-12
The No. 5 seed Indiana Pacers will take on the No. 4 seed Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, and the Celtics are listed as strong -450 favorites to win the series and reach the semis. Boston won the regular-season series 3-1, beating Indiana three times in a row including their final meeting on April 5 when the Celtics thrashed of the Pacers 117-97 as 1-point road favorites in the clash that decided who’ll get home-court advantage in the postseason.
The Indiana Pacers (48-34; 40-41-1 ATS) finished the regular season at the 2nd spot of the Central Division standings 12 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pacers lost their best player Victor Oladipo for the season, as 27-year old guard injured his knee against the Raptors on January 23, and they went 16-19 since then. It was a huge blow for the Pacers who looked like a serious contender in the East, and they hold the No. 3 seed for a long time. However, the Pacers dropped 11 of their last 17 games and 10 of their previous 12 outings on the road, so they couldn’t keep the pace with Philadelphia and Boston.
The Pacers are scoring 109.9 points per 100 possessions (18th in the league) on 53.0 effective field goal percentage while making 37.4% of their 3-pointers. They are making 26.4 assists (3rd) and 13.9 turnovers (15th) per 100 possessions, grabbing 43.8 rebounds (25th). The Pacers’ biggest strength is on the other side of the ball, as they are allowing 106.5 points per 100 possessions (3rd in the league) on 51.6 effective field goal percentage (13th) while forcing 15.9 turnovers (2nd).
Bojan Bogdanovic stepped up in Oladipo’s absence, leading the Pacers with 18.0 points per game on 49.7% shooting from the field, and sharpshooter is making 42.5% of his 3-point attempts. Center Myles Turner and forward Thaddeus Young are key guys at the defensive end. Turner is posting 2.7 blocks per game (1st in the league) along with 13.3 points and 7.2 rebounds, while Young is averaging 12.6 points, 6.5 boards, and 1.5 steals per contest. Darren Collison starts at PG, tallying 11.2 points, 6.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Domantas Sabonis is adding 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds off the bench.
On the other side, the Boston Celtics (49-33; 38-42-2 ATS) had a lot of ups and downs, finishing the regular season at the 3rd spot of the Atlantic Division standings two games behind the 76ers and nine games behind the Raptors. Many say the Celtics’ inconsistency was their only consistency this term, and I cannot argue about it. The Celtics’ longest winning streak numbered eight games from November 26 until December 14, 2018, while they lost 14 of their previous 28 games and eight of their last 17 contest at TD Garden. There were rumors about bad chemistry between Kyrie Irving and the rest of the team, but Brad Stevens’ guys just stated they wait for the playoffs to show their real face when it really matters.
The Celtics are scoring 112.2 points per 100 possessions (10th in the league) on 53.4 effective field goal percentage (7th) while hitting 36.5% of their 3-pointers (also 7th). They are making 26.2 assists (5th) and 12.8 turnovers (3rd) per 100 possessions and posting 44.5 rebounds (18th). The Celtics are surrendering 107.8 points in a return (7th in the league) on 51.4 effective field goal percentage (9th) while forcing 15.1 turnovers (8th).
Kyrie Irving had some minor injury problems throughout the regular season, but he’s still leading the Celtics with 23.8 points and 6.9 assists per game while making 48.7% of his field goals. Uncle Drew is leading the league with 57 field goals in clutch time. Gordon Hayward had a disappointing season, averaging 11.5 points, 4.5 boards, and 3.4 dimes per game, but he’s tallying 16.4 points on 58.5% shooting over his last ten outings. The Celtics have a few more guys who can step up, as Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier all are great role players who can make the difference. The only issue is Markus Smart’s injury, and the Celtics’ best defender will miss the series with Indiana.
Pick: Boston Celtics (-450)
Without Victor Oladipo, I think the Pacers don’t stand a chance in seven games against the Celtics. Just as the Pacers, the Celtics can play tough defense, too, and they possess far more offensive firepower than Indiana. Considering the Celtics’ inconsistency during the regular season, the Pacers should grab a win or two, but that’s all they can do here. The Celtics have greater depth even with Markus Smart sidelined for the first round, so I’m backing them to win in six games. Last year, the Celtics made it to the conference finals playing without injured Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
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