The Boston Celtics started their playoff run without Marcus Smart by playing just like the defensive star with an 87-74 win against the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the playoff series.
How did the Boston Celtics make up for the loss of Marcus Smart in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series? They played just like him in turning a first-half deficit into an 87-74 victory over the Indiana Pacers Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.
It was a battle, but the Celtics came out of halftime and turned it up defensively to set the tone of the series. Most importantly, they displayed that when their own offensive is not flowing, they can stay in the game and win games with a defensive intensity that they have been slacking for most of the regular season.
When Kyrie Irving said the team can flip a switch in the playoffs, Game 1 certainly showed that. Down 45-38 at the half, the Celtics came out firing on all cylinders. With their length, they defended the three-point strip and with their intensity, they battled down below.
Overall, it was great to see the Celtics regain that defensive identity they were known for in limiting a Pacers team that averaged 108.0 points a game to just 74 points on 33.3 percent shooting.
Irving certainly liked the way his team defended, especially with being sluggish themselves offensively for the first part of the game.
“I knew that our length and our versatility were going to be a positive for us, especially in this series,” Irving said after the game, via Celtics.com. “We know them very well. We’ve played them four times throughout the year. We know each other pretty well. So defensively I think we’re going to be in the right spots. It’s just matching that effort and being smart about it and who we wanted to gap off of and really focusing in on the game play, just doing the right things.”
Speaking of smart, the team came out of the locker room at half time and played the game as a team just like Marcus Smart. Not only did they set the tone in the series with their defensive effort, they showed that it’s not just Smart who anchors the defensive.
Sure, there will be matchups down the line (if the team advances) where Smart’s absence will be highlighted, but if they are engaged and playing team defensive basketball, they should be more than okay.
Kyrie Irving recognized both the importance of Marcus Smart and the team’s defense in dedicating the Game 1 victory to the defensive stud:
In limiting the Indiana Pacers to just 29 points in the second half, not allowing a field goal until under 4:00 minutes into the third quarter, the Boston Celtics played the basketball head coach Brad Stevens has been trying to get out of them all regular season long.
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Perhaps it took a sluggish first-half of the game to get the point across but coming onto the floor as locked in as they were is a really good sign that the Celtics will be a tough out. They valued each possession and showed the intensity and physicality it will take to advance in the playoffs.
As they showed in Game 1, when the offensive is off, the defense can help this team overcome and eventually lead to better offense.