HEADLINE

Plenty of offense on tap as Celtics, Pacers meet in East finals

Field Level Media

May 21, 2024 at 2:57 am.

Based on past performance, it’s unlikely that generating good offense will be a problem for either team when the Indiana Pacers visit the Boston Celtics for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night.

Sixth-seeded Indiana led the NBA in scoring during the regular season, when it averaged 123.3 points per game. Top-seeded Boston averaged 120.6 points per contest in the regular season, which ranked No. 2.

The Pacers shot 67.1 percent from the field — an NBA playoff record — when they beat the host New York Knicks 130-109 in Game 7 of the conference semifinals Sunday. Tyrese Haliburton led the way with a 26-point performance.

“I’m just proud of this group,” Indiana’s Myles Turner said. “This is the most special group I’ve been around since I’ve been here. We all play for each other. There’s no ego. When you have guys who can score 15-plus points every single night — seven, eight guys — there can be a lot of ego involved with that, and we were able to nip that in the bud a lot early in the season.

“And obviously having Pascal (Siakam) coming here midway through the season, adding his leadership and everything he’s able to provide for us offensively and defensively has been huge. … We’re not done yet.”

Haliburton averaged a team-high 20.1 points per game during the regular season, but Siakam is the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs (21.2). The Pacers have scored at least 140 points 11 times this season.

“I think it’s just the old-school way of thinking that you can’t play this fast in the playoffs, but I think opportunistically you can do it,” Haliburton said. “I think if we’re able to get stops, of course we can.”

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown do most of the heavy lifting on the offensive end for the Celtics. Through 10 playoff games Tatum is averaging 24.3 points and 10.4 rebounds. Brown is averaging 23.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in the postseason.

“We understand what we can do individually,” Tatum said. “Each night just kind of presents different challenges and being ready and up for the task to do whatever is needed because both of us are capable on the basketball court to do literally everything.”

Indiana dispatched the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round before it eliminated New York. Boston advanced by defeating the Miami Heat in the first round and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference semifinals. Each series went five games.

The Celtics will be without center Kristaps Porzingis, who will reportedly also miss the second game of the series with a calf injury. Porzingis was injured during Game 4 of Boston’s series against Miami. The Celtics have a 5-1 record in the playoffs when Porzingis hasn’t played.

“You know that he wants to play,” Boston’s Jrue Holiday said. “You know that he wants to get out there and play with his teammates, but then seeing him out there and seeing him working has been good. And honestly just hope that he recovers fast so that we can get him back out there.”

Boston won three of five meetings against Indiana during the regular season.

“Really excited to get back out there and play,” Holiday said. “Seems like we’ve been off for a while, so excited to get out there Game 1, kind of get it started.”

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