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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Danny Ainge reveals why he initially rejected Celtics GM job offer

Danny Ainge reveals why he initially rejected Celtics GM job offer

Seventeen years ago, the Boston Celtics hired Danny Ainge to be their executive director of basketball operations and general manager.

Getting Ainge on board wasn't an easy task, though.

After spending seven-and-a-half seasons as a player on the C's in the 1980s, one would think Ainge would pounce on the opportunity to run one of the NBA's most iconic franchises. However, that was not the case as he was comfortable with his role as an analyst on TNT's NBA broadcast.

Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca extended the job offer to Ainge twice, but he rejected it both times before finally accepting it in May of 2003. Ainge explained in more detail why he was hesitant to take the job in a recent conversation with Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

“They (Grousbeck and Pagliuca) told me that (former Celtics president) Red (Auerbach) had recommended that they hire me,” Ainge told Washburn. “I was flattered and I told them thank you. My three older kids had graduated from high school. I have my three youngest at home, so life is a little bit different. I told them I was not interested in the job and I gave them names of people in the league and some former Celtic players they should interview.

“I didn’t jump at it. It wasn’t anything I was looking to really do. As time went on, they had come a second time and a third time while I was broadcasting. I sensed my wife was warming up to the idea. Eventually, I said yes.”

With Ainge at the helm, the Celtics later won their 17th NBA title in 2008. After the championship season, Ainge was promoted to president of basketball operations.

Seems like taking the job turned out to be the right choice.

For Celtics, restart would quench long desire to see how good they can be

For Celtics, restart would quench long desire to see how good they can be

Before the Boston Celtics played their final game on March 10, Brad Stevens lamented how, "We haven’t been fully healthy very often. It almost always feels like we’ve had one of Kemba [Walker], Jayson [Tatum], Jaylen [Brown] or Gordon [Hayward] out.”

In fact, you would have had to rewind another month before that to find the last time the Celtics played with their top 7 players healthy.

What’s more, Boston had that top core rotation intact only eight times in the 64 games the team played before the coronavirus pandemic forced pro sports to shut down. One of the common refrains from the Celtics — both before the season paused, and in this awkward period since -- was a desire to find out how just good they could be when their top players are fully healthy.

Maybe they’ll actually get a chance to find out.

The NBA announced Saturday that it is in “exploratory conversations” with Disney about restarting the season in Orlando in late July. Even as momentum seemed to be growing about a potential resumption, the league’s acknowledgment made it seem just a bit more real.

There are undoubtedly plenty of hurdles to navigate — coronavirus testing, chief among them — before the NBA can truly position itself to resume games but it feels even safer to start thinking about that day now.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

The news definitely will energize Celtics players. Even with mix-and-match personnel due to injuries and illness, the Celtics still owned the fifth-best record in basketball before play paused. They had the fifth-best offensive rating, the fourth-best defensive rating, and fifth-best net rating. Boston had positioned itself for a top 3 spot in the Eastern Conference and showed that, when healthy, it could compete with any of the league’s elite.

After Enes Kanter hurt his leg on opening night, the Celtics didn’t have their top 7 healthy again until after Christmas (Dec. 28 vs. Raptors). A three-game stretch from Jan. 8-11 was the longest clip with its core healthy and Boston went just 1-2 in those games. Still, when Boston had its top 7 intact on Jan. 20 against the Lakers, it produced one of the team’s signature wins of the season.

We already ran down some of the biggest questions the Celtics will face if the season resumes. Sustained health is no guarantee, even if players will have had roughly three months to heal up before teams start to reconvene.

But the big fear the past two months is that these Celtics wouldn’t even get a chance to see how good they can be. That all the positive vibes and all the potential of the 2019-20 squad would be lost if the season was unable to resume.

It goes beyond the mere potential of the team. During a Zoom conference with Celtics reporters on Thursday, rookie Grant Williams noted the initial suspension of play stung Celtics players because, “especially with this group that we have, who enjoy each other, we enjoy being around each other, we were having so much fun during the year.” Players have openly craved simply getting back in the gym together because of how much they enjoyed each other’s company.

Players have made it clear that safety must be the first priority. If the league can ensure that and the season can resume, we can all embrace getting to see this team again. Before the season paused, the big question was whether the team had enough talent to truly make a push (with some lamenting the team’s lack of deadline and buyout activity).

All Celtics players ever wanted was a chance to answer that question, to see how good this roster could be at full strength. There will be some new variables in the equation given the unique circumstances of a restart but, as optimism about a restart grows, these 2019-20 Celtics might finally get their chance to determine their potential.