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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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