Celtics Take 3-0 Lead on Pacers

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) goes to the basket past Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, April 19, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Boston Celtics keep following the same game plan.

Three games into their first-round playoff series, it’s still working.

Another dominant second-half defensive performance Friday night helped the Celtics retake control of the game and another late scoring run helped them pull away from Indiana for a 104-96 victory and a 3-0 series lead.

“We’ve come a long way,” All-Star guard Kyrie Irving said. “We’re all making sure we’re giving each other confidence and doing the little things to ensure we win. When you have that type of camaraderie, executing is a lot easier. Now that the stakes are higher, we’re settling into who we want to be.”

While the names and numbers seem to change on a daily basis, the results have remained strikingly consistent.

The Celtics turned Game 1 by limiting Indiana to eight third-quarter points and won by 10. In Game 2, the Celtics erased a double-digit deficit by allowing just 12 fourth-quarter points as they won by eight. This time, it was a 12-point third quarter that swung the momentum, leading Boston to its sixth straight win over Indiana — all since January.

If they can do it one more time Sunday, last year’s Eastern Conference runner-ups will be headed to the conference semifinals.

“In Game 4, we expect (Indiana) to take it to another level,” Jaylen Brown said after scoring 23 points. “We’ve got to come out and not take our foot off the gas. We’ve got to come out and play great basketball and try to close this thing out.”

It seems Boston has an answer for every adjustment the Pacers make.

With the league’s best defense focused on holding Irving in check Friday, Brown went 8 of 9 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds Jayson Tatum added 18 points and seven rebounds and Irving was still productive with 19 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

For Indiana, it has been a nightmare of a series.

After charging back from a 15-point first-quarter deficit to take a 61-59 halftime lead, Myles Turner opened the third with a 3-pointer to give the Pacers a five-point lead. Tyreke Evans matched his playoff career high with 19 points, 12 in the second quarter.

But then the Celtics did it again.

When Indiana’s offense bogged down in the third, Boston scored eight straight points to retake the lead, closed the quarter on a 9-2 run and delivered the final blow with a 10-4 spurt late in the fourth to make it 98-92.

“In the third quarter, we lost our patience,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “We took quick shots, bailed them out, and lost our rhythm.”

TIP-INS

Celtics: Tatum also had seven rebounds while Al Horford finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. … The Celtics finished 15 of 34 on 3s after making 8 of 10 in the first quarter. … Boston scored 41 points in the first quarter, the most Indiana has allowed in the first in its NBA playoff history. The Lakers set the previous mark, 38, during the 2000 NBA Finals.

Pacers: Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15 points and Thaddeus Young had 11 points and nine rebounds. … Domantas Sabonis finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Myles Turner scored 13 points, matching his total from the first two games of the series. … Wesley Matthews had 11 points and Darren Collison scored 10. … Indiana went 11 of 30 on 3s after making 8 of 15 in the first half. … The Pacers committed no turnovers in the second quarter. … Indiana now faces its second sweep in three years after never previously being swept in a best-of-seven series.

RETURN ON HOLD

All-Star guard Victor Oladipo was expected to return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Game 3. Instead, bad weather in Florida prevented him from making it back.

Oladipo hasn’t appeared publicly in Bankers Life Fieldhouse since he was wheeled off the court on a stretcher with a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee In January. His presence was supposed to give the Pacers an emotional boost.

The Pacers have not said if Oladipo will return for Game 4.

THEY SAID IT

Celtics: “I think he’s fine. Turns out if you play 16 straight minutes, it cure all ills,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said when asked about Horford’s availability for Game 3.

Pacers: “It comes down to the third quarter. We’ve just got to figure out how to get off to a better start,” Evans said.

UP NEXT

Game 4 is Sunday in Indianapolis.

RAPTORS 98, MAGIC 93

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Toronto Raptors think Pascal Siakam should be selected the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

He was their MVP on Friday night.

And the East’s No. 2 seed has the home-court edge back again.

Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, hitting a floater with 1:33 left to help snuff out a big Orlando rally and the Raptors held off the Magic 98-93 to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.

“He’s unbelievable,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “He’s the most improved basketball player in the NBA this year and he’s only going to get better.”

Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting.

“It’s just taking what a defense gives us and going with it,” Siakam said.

Kawhi Leonard — battling illness this week — had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green had 13 points and Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assists, plus ran down a huge offensive rebound with about 15 seconds left to extend a critical possession and spoil Orlando’s first home playoff game since 2012.

“It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.”

Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.

“Our turnovers hurt us again,” Vucevic said, lamenting Orlando’s 16 giveaways. “We had too many of those. Empty possessions for us and against a team like that you can’t have that.”

The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third after a brief Orlando spurt, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good. Siakam and Green were both 3 for 3 during the run, the Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6 1/2 minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.

That being said, they went down swinging.

Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93.

Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, Lowry ran it down and Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to clinch the win.

“Critical,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

Orlando, which finished the regular season by winning 13 of its final 14 home games, was 13 of 44 from 3-point range.

Toronto scored the first 10 points — the last five by Siakam, who was a problem from the outset for the Magic — and led by as many as 11 in the first half. The Magic got within 48-45 at the break after Ross beat the clock from midcourt at the buzzer.

The Magic got the lead twice in the second half, once by one point, the other by two points. And both leads lasted exactly 15 seconds, getting taken away on 3-pointers by Siakam and Green.

And now it’s up to Orlando to regroup, the same way Toronto did after dropping Game 1.

“It’s 2-1,” Clifford said. “It’s not like it’s 3-0. It’s 2-1…. Handling disappointment is a huge part of NBA basketball and it’s a bigger part of playoff basketball.”

TIP-INS

Raptors: Toronto had lost four consecutive Game 3s. … Patrick McCaw (sprained right thumb) was active, but did not play. … The Raptors are 6-1 in their last seven road games this season. … Siakam has 73 points and 30 rebounds in the series.

Magic: Among the former Orlando players in the building were Tracy McGrady, Jameer Nelson and Horace Grant. … Orlando missed three shots at the rim in one third-quarter possession. Vucevic missed at the rim, and Aaron Gordon couldn’t convert on two putback tries. DOUBLING UP

Friday was historic for Toronto. It marked only the second time that the NBA’s Raptors and NHL’s Maple Leafs won a playoff game on the same day; the Leafs won in Boston. The only other time that happened was April 26, 2001 — the day when the Raptors got their first postseason victory.

GOVERNOR SPEAKS

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s first lady Casey DeSantis were in attendance and received Magic “46” jerseys — a nod to his being the 46th governor of the Sunshine State. The governor and Magic CEO Alex Martins spoke pregame about the hope for Orlando to get another All-Star Game soon, though all through 2022 has already been awarded to other Eastern Conference cities — and Milwaukee, another East city, has expressed interest in 2023.

THUNDER 120, TRAIL BLAZERS 108

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook called his play in Game 2 “unacceptable.”

It was more than acceptable in Game 3. He had 33 points and 11 assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-108 on Friday night to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

Paul George added 22 points, Jerami Grant had 18 and Dennis Schroder 17 for the Thunder. They will host Game 4 on Sunday night.

Damian Lillard scored 32 points, but he had just three in the fourth quarter after scoring 25 in the third. C.J. McCollum had 21 and Enes Kanter added 19.

Oklahoma City closed the second quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 49-39 lead. Lillard was held to four points on 2 -or-6 shooting and the Trail Blazers shot 37.5% in the half.

George hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw in the opening minutes of the second half to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 55-43. Westbrook backed down Lillard, hit a bank shot and was fouled. Westbrook brought out his “rock the baby” celebration, then made the free throw to put Oklahoma City up by 15.

Lillard scored 23 points the rest of the quarter to help cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 86-82 at the end of the period. McCollum hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 89 early in the fourth.

Oklahoma City regained control, then kept it. Westbrook’s jumper with just over two minutes remaining put the Thunder up 10.

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