It’s playoff season for the Celtic army, and it started with a win that was as underwhelming as underwhelming can be. In the age of pace and space with offensive output at an all-time high, the old-fashioned-looking Cs might as well have been playing in the age of Red Auerbach instead of Brad Stevens.
How ironic then, is it, that of all teams, they were playing the Indiana Pacers? A team literally named after the Indianapolis 500 but looked like their fast car got a flat in the third quarter and never recovered. Eight points — eight measly points in the third quarter for those race cars without engines. In an era where the Sacramento Kings scored 48 points in a quarter (Look it up, they did it on April 10!), this sad stat sticks out like a sore thumb. And yes, you can certainly give all the credit in the world to a Celtics defense that stifled the opposition. But is this going to be enough going forward? Is this going to be enough to down the juggernauts that await them?
Let’s start with the good: The Pacers were held to 33.3% shooting from the field, and an even paltrier 22.2% from 3-point land. The Cs pulled down 68 rebounds to the Pacers’ 50 and held Bojan Bogdanovic to 12 points, despite him averaging close to 22 points per game since the all-star game.
All good, but all defensive, and caveats must be added. The Pacers went 7–14 in a 21-game slump to end the season without the services of back-to-back all-star (and singer!) Victor Oladipo. A team without much offensive firepower to begin with should not be an apt litmus test to measure the Celtics defense against. Plus, the self-inflicting Pacers did the Celtics a nice favor by shooting 12–21 from the free-throw line. You can only beat what’s in front of you, but you have to look convincing. That brings us to the other side of the floor.
What an ugly game and a waste of a Sunday afternoon (sorry, if it was 1966 this would’ve been a classic — there might as well have not been a 3-point line). For all of their defensive dominance, the Celtics themselves could only manage to shoot 36.4% from the field, as Jayson Tatum was the only C shooting over 50% from the field. However, he had a big fat zero in the assist column for a team that only had 18 on the day. Of course, it’s never an encouraging sign when a squad has more turnovers (20) than assists, and with the Celtics’ discombobulated offense, it’s not the best omen.
Compound this with the fact that in another Eastern matchup, Giannis Antetokounmpo showed up, pouring in 24 points with 17 rebounds in 23 minutes against a sorry Pistons squad in what basically amounted to a scrimmage. The Celtics have all the reason in the world to be nervous. Bojan Bogdanovic is not Giannis, despite whatever crazy Indiana Pacers propaganda newspaper you may be reading says.