BOSTON -- The one great thing about the playoffs is more than any other time of the year, there’s no hiding from the truth about who you are as a team.
Whatever questions a team’s play may have raised in the regular season, they go into the playoffs with a clean slate, a chance to set the record straight for whatever wobbly play they had during the regular season.
But going into every playoff series, there are questions that in time will be answered.
Some are obvious like who is the best player going into this series?
Kyrie Irving, of course.
Others aren't quite of the no-brainer variety.
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That’s why on the cusp of Boston’s first-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers this afternoon, we take a look at a few questions that should be addressed between now and tip-off that most fans probably aren't thinking about, but should anyway.
Who gives the Celtics the best chance at limiting Indy top scorer Bojan Bogdanovic?
He becomes a hot topic of discussion not only because he has been the Pacers’ best scorer since Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury in January, but also because the man who has done the best job defensively on him, Marcus Smart, will be out for this entire series after suffering an oblique injury against Orlando last week.
Boston will employ a multitude of defenders, but keep an eye on Jayson Tatum.
According to Second Spectrum statistics, Tatum defended Bogdanovic for 53 possessions in the four games between Boston and Indiana this season.
When guarded by Tatum, Bogdanovic scored a total of eight points on 2-for-9 shooting.
And you have to figure part of Tatum’s defense will be to make Bogdanovic have to defend him.
Bogdanovic defended Tatum for 64 possessions this season, but only two of those possessions came in their last game which was a Celtics blowout win in Indiana earlier this month.
In total, Tatum scored 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting when guarded by Bogdanovic this season.
Does home court really matter in this series?
The Celtics get a lot of credit for being a good road team, in part because that’s who they were a year ago.
But this team, this season?
Not so much.
Boston finished with a 21-20 road record this season, making them one of nine teams in the NBA with a winning record on the road.
But as the Celtics found out a year ago, winning on the road becomes a much tougher chore when the postseason arrives.
Away from the TD Garden last postseason, Boston compiled a record of just 1-7.
The year prior to that, Boston’s road record was 3-4.
In the four postseason runs Boston has had under Brad Stevens, the Celtics are just 5-16 in the playoffs.
As for the Pacers, this will be their fourth straight year getting to the playoffs.
And their road record, 2-8 overall, isn't much better.
So not only does Boston have the fact that they have home court advantage going in their favor, but they are also facing an Indiana team that hasn’t had much luck winning away from home in recent years in the playoffs.
Who is the one Celtic out of the rotation now who could be a factor in this series?
The playoffs have a way of shortening the rotation of the deepest team. For Boston, that trimming down is a lot easier unfortunately because of Marcus Smart’s oblique injury which will keep him out for the entire playoff series against Indiana and likely most if not all of the second round if Boston is fortunate enough to advance.
But if there’s a player who just might find his way on to the floor in this series and help Boston win a game or two, it’s Brad Wanamaker.
The 29-year-old rookie has been seldom-used this season, appearing in just 36 games this season.
However, he has seen a slight uptick in getting on the floor late in the season.
And to his credit, he has made the most of opportunity for increased playing time.
In the season finale at Washington, he scored a career-high 17 points in helping Boston rally for the win.
And earlier this month, he came off the bench in Boston’s blowout win at Indiana on April 5 to score nine points on 4-for-5 shooting.
But even more significant was what he provided defensively in that April 5 win over Indiana which for the Celtics in Game 1, will be a hot topic of discussion in the wake of Marcus Smart’s absence.
If the Celtics perimeter defenders aren’t playing as well as head coach Brad Stevens would like or he’s just looking to shake things up a bit, no one should be surprised if he turns to Wanamaker who in the April win over Indiana, had a defensive rating of 89.2 which was tops among all Boston players who logged at least 15 minutes of court time.
What’s the one statistic that’s most surprising between these two teams?
When you think of Boston and Indiana, often the first words that come to mind are gritty defenders. The Pacers and Celtics are ranked third and sixth, respectively, in defensive rating this season.
And when it comes to field goal percentage, the Pacers rank among the NBA’s best in that category as well.
But in the four regular season meetings between these two, three of which were won by Boston, one thing has become crystal clear: Boston has been an elite, equal opportunity shot-making bunch.
No statistic drives this point home more than when you look at the field goal shooting by the Celtics against the Pacers this season.
It’s not like one or two or even three guys have had it going at a high level when it comes to shot-making by the Celtics against the Pacers.
Actually, it has been six - yes, six - Celtics who have consistently found success and the bottom of the net, against Indiana this season.
Boston has six different players who have played in at least three of the four games against Indiana this year, who are all shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
The “low man” among the group is Kyrie Irving who has made 50.9 percent of his shots this season against the Pacers in addition to drilling 45 percent of his 3’s.
Aron Baynes, who has averaged 10.0 points per game against the Pacers (the only team he averaged double figures against this season by the way), leads the way by making 61.9 percent of his shots against Indy.
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Along with Irving and Baynes, the other red-hot shooters against the Pacers this season includes Jayson Tatum (51 percent); Jaylen Brown (52.8 percent); Marcus Morris (52.4 percent) and Gordon Hayward (60.6 percent).
As for what Indiana does to counter that, well … they have just two players shooting 50 percent or better against Boston this season and that’s Myles Turner (51.9 percent) and Domantas Sabonis (60 percent).
Who is the one Pacers player that’s floating below the radar that should concern Boston?
Every playoff series has an assortment of wild card-type players who can dominate the game one night and completely disappear the next.
Tyreke Evans is that kind of player.
The former Rookie of the Year in Sacramento, Evans will be looked upon to provide a little bit of everything which plays to his strengths.
But the one thing Boston has to worry most about when it comes to Evans, is not allowing him to get into a rhythm scoring the ball.
Because this season, when he gets buckets it’s almost a given that the Pacers are going to get a win.
This season, Indiana has had 10 games in which Evans has scored 17 or more points.
Indiana’s record in those games?
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