After an 84-74 win to push the Celtics up 1-0 over the Pacers, I have some takeaways and reactions from a fun day at the Garden.
This is all for Marcus Smart
Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart’s friendship has been well documented during Kyrie’s first 2 seasons in Boston. He always talks about how much he appreciates how Marcus plays and never fails to stress how important he is to everything they’re about. The prospect of being without Smart for the foreseeable future was a hard one for this team to swallow but it seems like they’re trying to rally behind it. Post-game Kyrie had this to say about Smart and how “This one is for you bro.”
I bet Marcus was out of his seat when Kyrie and Marcus Morris Sr. both dove on the floor for loose balls. I can imagine he was even more ecstatic seeing as they allowed a season-low 74 points. In this day in age where every team can shoot and games frequently spill into the 110s and 120s, the Celtics dug in on the defensive end. It paid homage to their fallen teammate and it looks like it’ll be something that will continue throughout this playoff run.
Is 50/40/90 Marcus Morris Sr. making a return this postseason?
Mook has always been streaky in his career and the ups and downs of a volume scorer like himself make sense over a long season. This year however, he started out hotter than hot for nearly half of the season. In his first 38 games he averaged 15.6/6.0/1.4 on blistering shooting splits of 50.1/45.2/86.6. Since then, in his last 37 games (not including yesterday) he averaged 12.3/6.2/1.5 on 39.3/29.7/81.6 shooting. He’s struggled from the floor for quite some time and the hope was that he could get it into gear for the postseason.
For all of us who have held out hope for a late season Mook Revival, yesterday was a good sign. 20 points and 7 rebounds on 5/12 shooting and 7-9 from the line is exactly what this team needed to spearhead their efforts yesterday. The Celtics came out sleepwalking, but once Morris stepped out onto the court the whole feel changed. He dove on the floor, hit some big shots, set the tone on both ends, and riled up the Boston faithful like we know he loves to do.
Terry Got Scary
OK…I KNOW going 1-6 from the floor and being sort of a black hole on offense doesn’t really categorize as a great performance. I’m here though to give Terry some credit where it’s due and his shot at the end of the third deserves as much.
I swear during his celly (or tantrum over a non-call) he grew claws and slowly morphed into his alter-ego until heading back into the huddle. For whatever reason Terry shoots like 80% on buzzer beaters (don’t fact check that for me because I’ve convinced myself 80% is the figure) and yesterday’s was another treat. It also gave the Celtics momentum going into the fourth and ultimately helped lead to a stress-free win down the stretch.
Baynes is not a human…he is a robot, or a shape shifter, or something in between
After injuring himself early in the fourth quarter it seemed like more bad news was on the horizon. Instead of going to the locker room Baynes just clenched his fists and screamed on the bench before declaring he was fine to the trainer. I don’t know what sort of a healing technique that is but I essentially picture all of Baynes’ bones and what not fusing back together after a scream of that magnitude. Big for morale, big for screaming, and big for the Celtics that this seems to be a non issue going forward.
Kyrie and Gordon finally get a taste of playoff basketball in Boston
It’s surreal that it has taken this long for both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to make their playoff debuts in Boston. After both missing last year’s campaign I can only imagine the excitement each had to finally get out there in a playoff game in green. Kyrie was admittedly nervous as he told Jayson Tatum pre-game that he had some jitters as he dawned a T-Shirt that read “You can’t believe you’re calm, when you’re not”. For someone who seems so calm and collected in moments like this it was an interesting contrast that Kyrie was nervous. He started out slow but really hit his stride on both ends as the game went on. Hayward on the other hand continues to look comfortable and even though his numbers weren’t too gaudy, he did exactly what they needed of him. He’s a swiss army knife off of that bench and when he’s going to the basket hard while also facilitating at a high level he’s at his best.
They both contributed as Kyrie posted 20/5/7 and 2 steals while Gordon Hayward had 10/7/4 and 2 steals. It was a huge moment for the both of them and you could tell they relished playing in front of the Boston faithful and giving back to those fans that come in there every night and make it such a tough place to play.
The Pacers have a tough road ahead of them
After what was a debacle of a first half where the Celtics shot 32.5% from the floor and committed 9 turnovers, things changed in the 3rd quarter. They blitzed the Pacers as they were able to not only get back into the game, but run away with it. Indiana struggled mightily from the field in the third quarter/second half in general (2-19 in the third and 9/38 in the second half…yuck) as the Celtics forced them into some difficult looks. Another adjustment they made was that they were comfortable letting the Pacers shoot from the outside and it paid dividends as Indiana went an abysmal 1-14 from deep in the second half.
It was the type of grind it out game that most expected the Pacers to thrive in. They’re such a gritty bunch and the Celtics were able to beat them at their own game. For the Pacers to have a chance in this series they’re going to have to keep the score down and force the Celtics into battles like we saw yesterday. The glaring thing here is that they did that yesterday and it still wasn’t enough to even give the green much of a scare.
It’s apparent how vast the talent gap is between these teams and it’s clear Indiana’s in deep trouble. It’s the type of thing where in the regular season they got away with not really having that go-to guy. As Celtics fans we know that first hand (think about the Isaiah teams) that the Little Engine That Could doesn’t really work in the playoffs. They don’t have a Kyrie, they don’t have an Al, and while their pieces fit perfectly around Victor Oladipo, they leave a lot to be desired when he’s not around. The expectation on my end was that this would go 5 and I’m sticking by that prediction after Game 1.
Dust your hardhats off and prep up for Game 2 Wednesday night at the Garden.