Celtics still have room to grow after gritty Game 1 win


BOSTON -- Aron Baynes had a moment or two when he grimaced in pain only to tell the media afterward that he was alright. 

Jaylen Brown and Bojan Bogdanovic had some words that led to Bogdanovic pushing Jayson Tatum and Brown being called for a technical foul. 

There was rarely a minute of play between these two that would pass in which someone wasn’t getting knocked to the ground or shoved out of the way under the basket between these two teams looking to take control of the series which began with Game 1 on Sunday. 

This Boston-Indiana playoff series was one in which both sides have talked often about the physicality needed by both in order to win. 

Indiana drew first blood on Sunday only for Boston to deliver the perfect counter-punch in the third quarter which is when the Celtics went into full-blown takeover mode before pulling away for an 84-74 win. 

If you take away the third quarter when Boston outscored Indiana 26-8, this was an evenly-played matchup. 

But after the first half on Sunday, the Celtics shifted into another gear at both ends of the floor, resulting in an absolutely dominant performance.

Gordon Hayward saw Boston’s success in the third quarter coming down to two things. 

“We did a really good job guarding and being physical,” Hayward told reporters. “Making them, same thing, making all their shots difficult. We had a couple breakdowns at the end of the half but for the most part, I thought we were pretty solid defensively. If we guard like that, we didn’t play very well on the offensive end. We still gave ourselves a really good chance.”

And that has to be the big takeaway from Boston. 

Even on an afternoon when they did not execute anywhere close to what they need to in order to continue forging ahead in the playoffs, there were a number of important takeaways from the victory.

First and foremost, they won the game. There’s a 77 percent chance that the team that wins Game 1 will win the series, so time is definitely on their side. 

Second, they won and no one got hurt. Injuries have become a mounting concern for Boston. They are currently without Marcus Smart (oblique tear) who will be out for all of this series and potentially most if not all of the second. 

And maybe most significant, Boston won the game without anyone getting hurt and did so knowing that they can play a lot better - especially on offense - than what we saw on Sunday. 

For the game, Boston shot 36.4 percent from the field and 35.7 percent (10-for-28) from 3-point range. 

Defensively, they limited the Pacers to 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 22.2 percent shooting from 3-point range which included a defensively suffocating third quarter that limited the Pacers to eight points on 2-for-19 shooting from the field. 

“I thought we got good looks,” Indiana’s Doug McDermott told reporters after the loss. “So can’t hang our heads too much. Shots weren’t falling.”

The Celtics will also be in the market to improve their shooting performance in Game 2 on Wednesday.

“We have to get a lot better to make sure we get the looks we want and then knock them in,” Stevens said. “We missed some open looks in the first half, but there were also times where we didn’t own our space and they were very physical with us.”

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