INDIANAPOLIS -- There was no bottle poppin’ or celebratory cups of water dousing Celtics players after their 104-96 win over Indiana on Friday night, a victory that gave them a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Kyrie Irving knew how excited his teammates were about the win, but he had little choice but to hit them all with a splash of reality shortly after gathering together after the game.
“I told these guys when we got in the locker room, the hardest game of the series is the closeout game, especially on the road,” Irving recalled. “We know what’s at stake. We know the amount of pressure they’re putting on themselves and we know the amount of pressure we’re going to put on ourselves to play great.”
This is the second consecutive postseason run for the Celtics that has included at least one crack at sweeping a series.
Last year, the Celtics won the first three games against Philadelphia in the second round of the playoffs, dropped Game 4 in Philly only to return to the TD Garden and close it out in five games.
As cool as it might be to end this series at home, this group seems locked into closing this series out as soon as they can to claim the franchise’s first sweep since 2011.
“We’re not settling for going home; we want to win here,” Celtics forward Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “We want to get some rest, kick our feet up for the next round.”
That sweep in 2011 came in the first round against the New York Knicks and was only the fifth sweep of a best-of-seven series in franchise history and only the 11th sweep overall.
And while all the talk about a sweep can’t be ignored, the Celtics are focusing their thoughts on Sunday being the first close-out game of the series, which in itself poses a tremendous challenge for teams.
Historically, the Celtics have not been great in Game 4s when they've jumped out to a 3-0 lead, which is evident by their 5-8 record in such games.
But the big thing about this Pacers series has been how Indiana’s consistently high effort level has forced Boston to play more connected in order to win.
And just like the first three games, the Celtics are well aware of that challenge and how important it is to winning on Sunday and in doing so, closing out this series. ?
“They’ve played hard all three games,” said Jaylen Brown, who led all scorers in Game 3 with 23 points. “We’ve matched their intensity but Game 4 we expect it to be taken to another level. So we have to come out and not take our foot off the gas; come out and still play some great basketball at a high level and close this thing out.”
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