Celtics poised to take commanding lead over Pacers in first round of Eastern Conference playoffs

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The Boston Celtics head to Indiana for Game Three of the first round of the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs. Ahead 2-0, they can take a nearly insurmountable lead in the series. The Celtics were 21-20 on the road this season, while the Pacers had a 29-12 home record.

The first game in the series was a defensive battle which was largely determined when the Celtics outscored the Pacers in the third quarter, 26-8. Boston took the game by a final score of 84-74. Marcus Morris lead all players with 20 points off the bench for the Celtics. Al Horford hauled in 11 rebounds, while Kyrie Irving added seven assists. The Pacers shot just 33 percent from the floor and 6-of-27 from three-point range.  Cory Joseph scored 14 for Indiana, while Domantas Sabonis had nine rebounds and Thaddeus Young had six assists.

The Pacers played better in the second game and had a golden opportunity to even the series. Ahead by 11 after three, the Celtics outscored the Pacers, 31-12 in the fourth to win, 99-91. Kyrie Irving scored 37 and dished out seven assists in the win. Horford again dominated the boards with ten rebounds. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 and had eight rebounds for the Pacers in the loss.

Both teams were in the top ten in three-point field goal efficiency and near the bottom in rebounding. Indiana was the top defensive team in the NBA in terms of fewest points allowed and Boston was 8th. Neither team was excellent in scoring, but Boston was considerably better and taking care of the ball, ranked 3rd in turnovers, while the Pacers were 13th.

Kyrie Irving is leading all players in scoring in the series, averaging 28.5 points per game. Jayson Tatum is averaging 20.5 points, while Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris round out Boston's players averaging in double digits scoring. For the Pacers, Bojan Bogdanovic is averaging 17.5 points. Thaddeus Young, Tyreke Evans and Cory Joseph have been solid alternate options, dropping 32 per game.  Domantas Sabonis leads the team in rebounding at seven per game.

The Pacers are in a tough spot and nearly impossible situation should they lose this game. Only about two percent of series that start off 3-0 go the full seven games.  Coming off a better performance overall, albeit a terrible fourth quarter, should give the Pacers some momentum. Boston will play solidly and give Indiana a tough game, but the Pacers should edge the Celtics late to cut the series deficit to 2-1.

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