Last Updated: 2019-04-20
The No. 4 seed Boston Celtics defeated the No. 5 seed Indiana Pacers 104-96 as 3-point underdogs in Game 3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this past Friday. The Celtics are now just one step away from the semifinals and a chance to sweep the Pacers in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Pacers will have a tall task in Game 4 after suffering six straight losses to the Celtics, but they will certainly try their best to earn at least one victory in front of the home fans Sunday afternoon.
The Celtics are playing without Marcus Smart (oblique) who will be sidelined for the series with Indiana, while the Pacers are missing Victor Oladipo (knee), looking helpless without their best player.
The Celtics are listed as 2-point favorites with the total at 203.5 points and the Pacers at +120 money line odds. The bookies underestimated Boston in Game 3, setting the visitors as slight underdogs, but it’s obvious the Celtics are a better team than Indiana. I expected to see the Celtics around five points, considering the winning margins in the first three games of the series. Boston is 6-0 straight up and 5-1 ATS in its last six meetings with Indiana.
What’s at Stake?
The Pacers will play with their back against the wall, as another will be the end of their playoff story. The Celtics have a chance to grab a couple of days more to rest with a victory here, and it could mean a lot in the semifinals against the Bucks who will probably sweep the Pistons in the first round.
The Pacers had their chance in all first three games of the series, but they blew it, playing some terrible offense. After all these missed opportunities, their confidence could be pretty low, while the Celtics are certainly highly motivated to finish the job in four games.
We saw some patterns over the first three games, and the Pacers just cannot avoid huge drops in their offensive performance. After scoring just 29 second-half points in the opener, the Pacers had an awful second and fourth quarter in Game 2, combining for 29 points, while they scored only 12 points in the third quarter on Friday. The Pacers allowed 41 points in the first quarter of Game 3, and they still had a two-point lead at halftime, but that appalling third quarter cost them a lot.
The Pacers are making just 39.8% of their field goals and 33.0% of their 3-pointers along with 21.7 assists and 12.0 turnovers per contest. Indiana is shooting only 64.8% from the charity stripe. On the other side, the Celtics are shooting 43.8% from the field and 40.0% from beyond the arc, making 21.0 assists and 15.7 turnovers per game.
Also, the Pacers’ big men are underperforming, and after some poor displays over the first two games in Boston, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis combined for 25 points in Game 3, but they shot 7-of-20 from the field. The Celtics are posting ten rebounds per game more than the Pacers which is another reason why they are leading 3-0.
Kyrie Irving is dominating the Pacers, and after 37 points in Game 2, Uncle Drew posted a double-double in Game 3 with 19 points and 10 assists. Jayson Tatum is averaging 19.7 points per game in the series while making 53.2% of his field goals and 58.3% of his 3-pointers. Jaylen Brown put on a strong performance in Game 3 with 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting along with seven rebounds. The Celtics have more offensive firepower than the Pacers and it will decide the winner, as both teams are playing tough defense.
It’s a win or go home situation for the Pacers, and I think the Celtics will send them home. The Pacers will try their best to avoid a sweep at home, but they continue to struggle offensively, and I don’t see how they can solve the problem. They are 0-6 straight up in the last six matchups with Boston, covering the spread just once in the process, so I’m backing the Celtics to finish the job tonight. I don’t think it will be an easy task, but the Celtics’ confidence is sky high after a strong start on the postseason.
The under has hit in all three games thus far, and it is 11-5 in the previous 16 head-to-head duels in Indianapolis. The Pacers are averaging just 87.0 points per game in this series, while the Celtics are tallying 95.7 points per contest, so I’m backing the under.
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