After two games where neither team did much scoring, the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers came out firing Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The two sides combined for 120 first-half points, only to have its respective offenses come to a screeching halt out of halftime. It quickly turned into a rock fight, but the Celtics ultimately would prevail in another impressive and gritty performance by a score of 104-96.
In an up-and-down game, Jaylen Brown was Boston’s one consistent contributor from start to finish. The 22-year-old finished with 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting (4-of-5 3-PT) to go along with seven rebounds.
In addition to Brown, Kyrie Irving (19 points), Jayson Tatum (18 points), Al Horford (16 points) and Marcus Morris (11 points) also scored in double-figures.
The Pacers were led by Tyreke Evans, who finished with 19 points.
The Celtics now lead the series 3-0.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
After the Pacers scored the game’s first three points, the Celtics responded with a swift 9-0 run, which continued throughout the remainder of the quarter. Boston opened a scalding 9-of-13 from the floor (4-of-5 3-PT).
The Celtics ultimately would shoot 66.7 percent (80 percent 3-PT) and lead 41-28 after one, which was the highest scoring quarter of their 2019 postseason run.
Brown led all scorers with 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting. He was 3-of-3 from deep in his best scoring quarter of the playoffs.
Boston began the second quarter with some sloppy turnovers, allowing Indiana to cut into the deficit. The Celtics remained hot from deep, but their defense was extremely subpar and Indiana took full advantage.
A 17-3 run over a three minute span brought the Pacers even with just under five minutes to go in the quarter. Indiana’s strong offensive showing gave it the lead with 1:24 left.
After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, the Celtics trailed 61-59 at halftime. Boston had just eight points in the paint over the first 24 minutes of this one.
Evans led all players with 15 first-half points.
Brown was the lone Celtics player shooting well early in the third quarter, but the Pacers weren’t exactly lights out themselves. Before a Tatum turnaround with 7:20 remaining, the two sides combined for 10 straight misses, which was part of an Indiana scoring drought that lasted close to six minutes.
The third quarter quickly took the series’ familiar form of a rock fight, after Friday’s first half was a rare track meet.
Indiana finished the third quarter 6-of-25 from the floor, compared to Boston’s 7-of-25 profile. Despite the ugly quarter, the Celtics used a 9-2 run to head into the fourth leading 80-73.
CLOSING IT OUT
The fourth quarter was a tight, grind-it-out finish, similar to that of Game 2.
Down the stretch, the Celtics turned to Irving, who really took control in crunch-time. The all-star point guard controlled the pace, made the right passes, and was Boston’s go-to scorer in the closing minutes.
When Irving couldn’t convert with about 90 seconds left, it was Gordon Hayward who came up with a huge tip-in to put the Celtics up eight.
Irving sunk two free throws with 47.9 seconds left to put Boston ahead by eight once again, which would put this one out of reach. Indiana was 11-of-39 from the floor in the second-half.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Crunch-time Kyrie is ridiculous.
The Celtics and Pacers will meet for Game 4 of the series Sunday with Boston looking for a first-round sweep. Tip from Bankers Life Fieldhouse is set for 1:00 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images