Celtics

Celtics' dominance over Pacers continues with Game 3 victory

Celtics' dominance over Pacers continues with Game 3 victory

INDIANAPOLIS -- This is the adversity Kyrie Irving has been talking about.

Boston did not play its best game of the season, or of this series with the Indiana Pacers getting a clear and undeniable bump from playing in front of their own fans.

But when it mattered, it was Boston making the tough shots, getting the defensive stops and rebounds and in doing so, are on the verge of ending this first-round series in as little time as possible after Friday’s 104-96 Game 3 win.

The victory gives Boston a 3-0 series lead with a chance to close out the series on Sunday.

Boston kept the Pacers faithful quiet for most of the first half, only for Indiana to close out the second quarter with a 26-10 run to lead 61-59 at the half.

The Celtics spent a good chunk of the second half with a slim lead, with the Pacers doing just enough to stay within striking range.

But when it mattered the Celtics did what they had done in the first two games - close things out playing strong.

And in doing so, they are positioned to sweep the Pacers.

Here are some of the standout performers in Friday’s game.

MVP

Jaylen Brown

The importance of Kyrie Irving down the stretch goes without saying for the Celtics. But for large chunks of the game, it was Jaylen Brown’s play at both ends of the floor that really stood out for Boston. He would finish the night with another solid job defensively against Bojan Bogdanovic (15 points on 6-for-16 shooting) while scoring 23 points himself.

Most Improved

Kyrie Irving

Speaking of Kyrie Irving, his impact was steady for the first three quarters but as we’ve seen from him in the past he took it to another level in the fourth. He would finish with a double-double of 19 points and 10 assists to go with five rebounds.

Jayson Tatum

For the second time in as many games, Jayson Tatum came through with a strong game, finishing with 18 points on 8-for-16 shooting.

Turning point

Boston, leading 93-89, got a 3-pointer from Al Horford to go ahead 96-89 which put the Pacers in the kind of hole they could not climb their way out of.

Sixth Men

Tyreke Evans

He was really the most impactful player for the Indiana Pacers. He would finish with 19 points which is usually a good thing for Indiana which had a 10-3 regular season record when he scored at least 15 points. Now 10-4, the only team to beat them in the Eastern Conference when Evans has 15 or more is the Celtics who did it back in January and again Friday night.

Marcus Morris

It was indeed a night of redemption for Morris who followed a 20-point Game 1 performance with a big fat goose egg in Boston’s Game 2 win. On Friday, Morris was somewhere in between, which is a good thing for Boston, as he tallied 11 points and seven rebounds.

Duds

Myles Turner

He has spent the lead-up to the last two games talking about needing the ball more. Well, he got his wish but couldn’t deliver the monster game Indiana needed from him He tallied 13 points but did so on 4-for-10 shooting from the field in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

Up next: Boston has a chance to close out the series on Sunday with Game 4 at Bankers Life FieldHouse at 1 p.m.

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Celtics' Semi Ojeleye gives positive reaction to reported NBA return proposal

Celtics' Semi Ojeleye gives positive reaction to reported NBA return proposal

The NBA's Board of Governors reportedly is expected to approve a 22-team return plan during Thursday's meeting, which would pave the way for the 2019-20 season to resume later in the summer.

Under the reported proposal, each of the remaining 22 teams would play eight more regular season games before a 16-team playoff commences. 

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The Boston Celtics currently are the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They also are one of three teams in the East that's already clinched a postseason berth. It's not a perfect plan, but it does allow players some regular season games to get ready for the grind of the playoffs. The proposal gives teams on the playoff bubble a chance to earn a postseason berth as well.

Boston Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye joined Wednesday night's "Arbella Early Edition" to discuss the proposed return plan and the challenge players will have in getting ready to restart the season.

"I think it's a good plan," Ojeleye said. "Obviously, the entire pandemic we've been focused on keeping people healthy, and keeping the players and the fans healthy, that's why we shut (the season) down. I think what we're doing now, easing back into workouts with a few people in the gym is a good plan. Hopefully, going forward we keep people healthy as well."

What has Ojeleye been doing to stay in shape?

"I've been blessed to have a little outdoor space," he said. "I got my hands on some indoor equipment -- some bikes and weights. From there, it's really just about not skipping days. There have been a lot of days where I'm like -- I can't hoop, but I knew I could try to get my cardio in and try get my lifts in. That's what I've been focused on, and hopefully it pays off."

There's been a lot of debate over how much time players need to get into game shape. Some people think a month or even a few weeks is too much, but the long layoff hasn't been like a normal offseason where players are able to play pickup games and train however they choose. Many players have had limited access to workout equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic as gyms and team facilities have been closed.

Ojeleye explained why players need plenty of time to prepare their body and mind for the remainder of the regular season and the ensuing playoffs.

'It's going to be tough. Different guys have different access to weights and facilities," Ojeleye said. "And guys are at different stages of their careers. Some guys are coming off injuries, some guys have had nagging injuries during the year and they've taken a break. Everyone is going to need a little bit more time. I'd say, at least a few weeks at minimum for everyone to get back in shape and to get that feel. As a team, we need our chemistry, and that's going to take time as well."

The Celtics, despite making several roster changes before the 2019-20 season, quickly developed a strong chemistry. While there are reasons to be optimistic the C's will find this chemistry again soon, the process doesn't happen overnight, especially when these players have been unable to play basketball with their teammates during this pandemic.

What NBA's return-to-action plan means for the Celtics

What NBA's return-to-action plan means for the Celtics

When the NBA season was put on pause in March, the timing could not have been much better for the Boston Celtics. 

Wins were getting harder to come by (they had lost three of their last five), the jacuzzi-hot play of Jayson Tatum was starting to cool off some and Kemba Walker was headed towards a stretch of “strategic rest” days off because of knee soreness. 

And just like the rest of the NBA is fired up about the potential return to play reportedly as early as the end of late July, the Celtics are an eager bunch to restart the season as well. 

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And they should be for a number of reasons. 

First and foremost, there’s a very real chance that they can move up in the standings if the league adopts the reported return-to-play model which includes eight regular season games before the playoffs. 

Currently third in the East, the Celtics would begin the postseason against Philadelphia if the league went straight into the playoffs — an idea that hasn’t garnered a ton of support from owners or players. 

An eight-game slate of games would provide Boston with enough opportunities to potentially move ahead of Toronto and secure the No. 2 seed in the East. 

The way the standings look now, the potential for movement is great for many teams. 

Boston (43-21) trails the Raptors (46-18) by three games in the standings. Behind the Celtics you find the Heat (41-24) who are 2.5 games back.

The next closest teams to Boston beyond those two are Indiana and Philadelphia (both 39-26) who each trail Boston by 4.5 games. 

For the Celtics’ sake, moving up from their current draft position and avoiding a first-round matchup with Philadelphia would be the preferred path to take this postseason. 

The Sixers, one of the bigger disappointments this season, will feature a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, making them a much tougher foe come playoff time. 

For the Celtics, the alternative if they move up would be a Brooklyn Nets team that’s expected to play this postseason without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant who have both been out recovering from injuries. 

There’s also a chance that Boston would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round if the C's remain as the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed which, similar to facing Philadelphia, would provide a tough first-round matchup. 

The reboot to the season also allows more time for the Celtics to adjust to what’s shaping up to be a new pecking order. 

While Walker is the team’s most proven, most decorated talent, there’s no escaping the inevitable rise of Tatum as the face of the franchise (if he’s not already there). 

As the season wore on, his ascension was undeniable. Tatum began the season as a player the Celtics were hoping to see blossom into a big-time talent with the departures of Irving (Brooklyn) and Al Horford (Philadelphia).

Following his first All-Star appearance in February, Tatum averaged 29.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 46.8 percent on 3’s. His ability to pick up where he left off would go far in Boston’s quest to build off the successes they had this past season. 

As for Walker, he had missed some games and played limited minutes in others shortly before the season was paused thanks to knee soreness.

The extended downtime without games or practice should allow Walker to return to action revived and refreshed.

And him being healthy combined with Tatum’s improved play gives the Celtics a potent 1-2 punch as they inch closer to rebooting the system and in doing so, restarting their journey towards what they believe will be a deep postseason run.