Plenty to Like as Celtics Move Forward in NBA Playoffs

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Fresh off of a four game sweep of the Indiana Pacers, things are about to get significantly more challenging for the Boston Celtics.  The Golden State Warriors may be the reigning champs - and the team to beat - but the Milwaukee Bucks were the best team during the regular season this year and will be a major obstacle for the Celtics to overcome.  However, there is a lot to like if you're a Celtics fan, as you wait for Game 1 to tip off on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports
It may not have been the prettiest of series.  The manner in which Boston swept Indiana may not have been as convincing as what Milwaukee did to Detroit, but a sweep is a sweep.  Beating a team four consecutive times in the playoffs, including twice on the road, is a difficult, and impressive, thing to do, regardless of the talent discrepancy.

The Boston Celtics franchise in its rich 60+ year history, with its 56 playoff appearances and 17 NBA championships, have only swept opponents in a four game series six times.  Only two teams were able to pull off a sweep in the first round this year.  It just goes to show you how difficult that can be.

Shop for official Boston Celtics team gear and authentic collectibles at NBAStore.comYou can try and discredit Boston's victory with the fact that Victor Oladipo was out.  If he was healthy, sure, things would have been different.  They likely wouldn't have swept Indiana, but you can't tell me with certainty that the ultimate outcome of the series would have been different.  Also, if Oladipo was healthy all year, Indiana likely would have finished higher than the fifth seed and not have even faced Boston.

How about instead focusing on some of the positives to come out of that series?

Let's talk about Gordon Hayward, and how he cooked the Pacers in Game 4, especially late in the fourth quarter of a closeout game, on the road.  He scored nine of his team-high 20 points in the last five minutes, burying two crucial three-pointers as Boston pulled away late.  For the series, Hayward shot better than 48% from the field, and 44% from three.

Let's talk about Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.  Brown was stellar in Game 3, and for the series shot better than 58% from the field, 42% from three and was Boston's most efficient scorer.  Tatum shot 53% from three, and was Boston's most consistent offensive player over the four games.  He also got to the free throw line 12 times in Game 4.

Let's talk about the depth and scoring balance that the team showed.  How the Celtics had a different leading scorer in each game.  It's that same depth that was supposed to be this team's trump card this year.  While it didn't exactly play out that way over the course of the regular season, the depth was on full display in the first round.

Kyrie Irving was Boston's leading scorer in the series with 22.5 PPG.  However, that is mainly due to his Game 2 explosion in which he poured in 37 points.  In the other 3 games, Irving averaged less than 20 points and shot just 34% from the field.  He still managed to impact each game, with some great passing and timely buckets, but he was far from the playoff Kyrie to which people have become accustomed.

So, Marcus Morris stepped up in Game 1, Brown in Game 3 and Hayward in Game 4.  Boston managed to win a Game 4 where Irving and Al Horford shot a combined 8 of 32.  Horford was far from his best offensively in this series as well, shooting just 34%, and averaging 11 points.

In a series where two players critical to Boston's postseason success were far from their best, the Celtics still managed to pull off a sweep.

Will the team need to play better if they want to get past the Bucks?  Absolutely.  There are still plenty of things to feel good about coming out of the first round.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Plenty to Like as Celtics Move Forward in NBA Playoffs
Plenty to Like as Celtics Move Forward in NBA Playoffs
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