The Boston Celtics gritted out an 84-74 win in Game 1 Sunday, but there’s plenty of room to adjust and improve before Wednesday’s Game 2.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Celtics took care of business Sunday in their Game 1 over the Indiana Pacers. Marcus Morris looked great, Al Horford made a positive impact despite not being able to hit a jump shot, and Kyrie Irving looked like he settled in after a rough first half.
The story of Game 1 was the third quarter. The Celtics outscored Indiana 26-8 thanks to the Pacers inability to make anything they looked at. Boston can’t expect that to happen again. Their active defense in the second half caused the shooting slump to turn into an absolute horror show, but the Pacers are going to make shots moving forward.
The playoffs are all about adjustments. Teams have to be able to adjust their gameplan on the fly in order to maintain an advantage. Indiana will make the most adjustments because they lost, but the Celtics have plenty to improve on after Game 1. Let’s break down what they could look to change.
Go to the basket
You can’t go wrong listening to Tommy Heinsohn. The Celtics too often find themselves settling for threes rather than putting their head down and going to the rim. Their offense found a lot more success in the second half when they attacked the basket. They got to the line more and when you’re a threat going to the rim you can generate open threes.
Myles Turner is one of the best rim protectors in the NBA, but if he’s guarding Al Horford he won’t be able to deter as many shots at the rim if the Celtics can spread him out. It seems obvious, but if Indiana’s defense is locked in on the perimeter, the best way to put pressure on them is to drive. Boston has the advantage athletically, so they might as well use it.
The key for the Celtics in the second half was coming out of the locker room with a focus on playing physical defense. Jaylen Brown was a prime example of this when chasing Bojan Bogdanovic around screens. He stayed attached and used his length to keep Bogdanovic guessing in whether he had enough space to shoot.
The Celtics were the more physical team for most of the game, and it played a large part in them winning. Indiana kept missing for a reason; they simply weren’t comfortable. In the first half the Pacers found success running their offense towards the basket, but then during Boston’s run in the third, they took almost only threes and long two’s. Don’t expect them to let the Celtics play more physically in Game 2.
#Pacers plan to handle #Celtics’ physicality better: Coach McMillan: “They’ve got two hands on our guys and being physical. We’ve got to play through that. If the officials are going to allow that to happen, we’ve got to run through contact and we’ve got to play that way, too.”
— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) April 15, 2019
We could be in for a scrappy Game 2, so be prepared for that.
In our series preview, I mentioned how the Pacers lack of shot creators make them vulnerable to switching defenses. The Celtics didn’t switch that much in Game 1, but they showed flashes of what they’re more than capable of containing Indiana’s offense across all five spots. I mean, just look at Horford completely destroy Darren Collison here.
The Pacers depend on a lot of ball screens and dribble handoffs to get open looks. When you switch, you force the offense to either attack mismatches or create a shot on their own. The Celtics like to switch so I’d be surprised if they don’t turn to it exclusively at some point during this series.
Brad Stevens tends to hold off on drastic adjustments until the Celtics lose a game, but these are all minor changes that could go a long way towards Boston wrapping this series up in five games or less.