Watch CBS News

The Celtics will play the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics finally know their opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals. While many had hoped for a Boston-New York showdown for a trip to the NBA Finals, the Indiana Pacers spoiled that Sunday afternoon with a Game 7 victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

The Pacers shot an absurd 76 percent in the first half and led by 15 at the break on Sunday. While they cooled off a bit in the second half, the Pacers continued to pour it on and beat the Knicks, 130-109, to advance to the Conference Finals for the ninth time in franchise history. Indiana shot 67.1 percent in Game 7, good for the highest field goal percentage in any playoff game in NBA history.

So the Pacers are coming in hot as they get set to challenge the Celtics for a spot in the NBA Finals. If the upcoming series is anything like their regular-season meetings, it should be a very entertaining battle.

Celtics vs. Pacers

Only one team averaged more points per game than the Celtics (120.6) during the regular season and that was the Pacers, with Indiana pacing the rest of the NBA at 123.3 points per game off 50.7 shooting -- which also topped the NBA.

The big difference is that the 64-win Celtics also played excellent defense, and led the NBA with a ridiculous 11.3 point differential, which is the sixth-best ever in NBA history. The Pacers aren't all that good on the defensive end, ranking 27th overall in the NBA at 120.2 points allowed per game.

Boston and Indiana met five times during the regular season, with the Celtics winning three of those matchups. They absolutely trounced the Pacers in the first meeting, 155-104, at TD Garden back on Nov. 1. The Celtics hadn't scored that many points in a game since the days of Bill Russell and Bob Cousy during the 1958-59 season. Tatum led the charge with 30 points, while six other Celtics scored at least 13 points.

The Pacers got revenge a month later in the In-Season Quarterfinals, knocking the Celtics out with a 122-112 win thanks to Tyrese Haliburton's first career triple-double. The Celtics won in Indiana a month later on Jan. 6 when Tatum hit eight 3-pointers for 38 points while Jaylen Brown added 31 points in a 118-101 Boston victory.

The Pacers hosted the Celtics again two nights later and won that one, 133-131, despite Haliburton missing the game. Brown scored 40 for the Celtics, who played without Tatum, but Boston lost when Bennedict Mathurin (26 points) knocked down game-winning free throws after he was fouled by Kristaps Porzingis on a 3-point attempt with 0.6 seconds left. 

The Celtics won the final matchup on Jan. 30 at TD Garden with Tatum leading the way once again. He scored a game-high 30 points while Brown had 25 and Derrick White added 24 for Boston. Former Celtic Aaron Nesmith led the Pacers with 26 points, but Tatum blocked his layup attempt with 11 seconds left to help preserve the 129-124 win for Boston.

Tatum was a beast in his four games against the Pacers, averaging 32.5 points off 57.8 percent shooting overall and 48.6 percent from downtown. Brown was no slouch, putting up 28.4 points off 60.6 percent shooting in his five regular-season meetings against Indy.

Indiana is a run-and-gun team and Haliburton is one of the most gifted and dangerous point guards in the NBA. Myles Turner is a tough matchup underneath while Pascal Siakam can beat you on either end, and Nesmith is a ball of energy that always brings it against his former team.

The Boston defense is going to have its hands full with the fast-paced Pacers offense, but there is no excuse for the Celtics to lose this series. The Pacers will give them a run, but the Celtics are a much better team top to bottom.

What is the schedule for the Eastern Conference finals?

Here is a complete look at the upcoming schedule for the Celtics and the Pacers.

Game 1: Tuesday, May 21 at 8 p.m. in Boston
Game 2: Thursday, May 23 at 8 p.m. in Boston
Game 3: Saturday, May 25 at 8:30 p.m. in Indiana
Game 4: Monday, May 27 at 8 p.m. in Indiana
Game 5: Wednesday, May 29 at 8 p.m. in Boston*
Game 6: Friday, May 31 at 8 p.m. in Indiana*
Game 7: Sunday, June 2 at 8 p.m. in Boston*
* If Necessary

The Pacers are the only team left in the playoffs with a perfect record at home this postseason, going 6-0 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Celtics are 4-0 on the road in the playoffs, but 4-2 at TD Garden.

The Pacers finished the regular season as the 6-seed in the East, but beat the 3-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the first round before upsetting the Knicks in seven to get to this point. 

This will be the seventh time that the Celtics and the Pacers meet in the playoffs, but the first time they'll square off outside of the first round. Boston has won four of the previous postseason matchups, including the most recent one in 2019.

Will Kristaps Porzingis play in Eastern Conference finals?

Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis injured his calf in the first round against the Miami Heat, and was forced to miss Boston's second round series win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Though Porzingis is getting closer to a return to the court, he is expected to miss the start of the Eastern Conference final.

According to ESPN, Porzingis is likely to miss the first two games of the series. The report continued that "there is optimism" Porzingis could be back before the series is over. The report indicated that the center, who averaged 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game during his first season in Boston, has been "ramping up his on-court activity for an anticipated return in the conference finals."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.