Celtics' history of closing in on closing out playoff series

Celtics' history of closing in on closing out playoff series

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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NBA picks: Celtics vs. Suns betting predictions, plays against the spread

NBA picks: Celtics vs. Suns betting predictions, plays against the spread

The Boston Celtics aren't invincible, after all.

The Celtics had their nine-game winning streak snapped Sunday in Sacramento against the Kings when Marcus Smart's floater at the buzzer rimmed out.

Boston's 100-99 defeat was the team's second consecutive loss against the spread, as the C's only beat the Golden State Warriors by five on Friday night.

Will that trend continue on stop No. 3 of the Celtics' west coast road trip? The C's are road underdogs for just the fourth time this season for Monday's game against the upstart Phoenix Suns, who are 7-4 on the young season.

It's an intriguing scenario, so we'll dive right in with our moneyline, point spread and point total picks for Celtics-Suns, then give you our two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns, 9 p.m. ET

Moneyline: The Celtics' offense has looked pedestrian without Gordon Hayward on the start of this road trip. The Suns are giving up points in bunches, though, and this has the feel of a bounce-back game for a Boston club that got humbled in Sacramento. Put your faith in the Celtics (+145) to win outright. 

Point Spread: The Suns are much-improved, but they're not as good as their 7-4 record. The Celtics are 5-2 on the road and nearly beat the Kings despite a quiet night from Kemba Walker. Expect Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to power the Celtics (+3.5) to a win as road underdogs.

Point Total: Phoenix has allowed 112 points or more in four consecutive games. That's a good sign for a C's team's mustered just 199 points over its last two contests. The OVER has hit in six of these teams' last 10 meetings, so I'll roll with the C's and Suns surpassing 226.5 points in a shootout.

Jacob's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 16-10-1

NBA Locks of the Night

Cleveland Cavaliers (+3) at New York Knicks: The point spread is the only reason why you should watch this matchup of Eastern Conference cellar dwellers. The Cavs are 7-3 against the spread this season and have shown some fight despite their poor record. The Knicks continue to be hopeless.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers (-10): Paul George will have the sole objective of getting buckets in his first game against his former team. The Clippers also are 7-1 against the spread at home, and Kawhi Leonard could return after sitting out the last two games. Take the home team to the bank.

Jacob's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 10-7-1

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Kings, which tips off Sunday at 3 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

AP photo

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.