Sunday's NBA playoffs: Celtics rally past Pacers in opener
Boston — The Celtics have been at their best this season when they are forcing turnovers, spacing the floor and knocking down outside shots.
They found out in their Game 1 win over the Pacers that they are equipped to win an ugly, physical game as well.
Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris each scored 20 points, and the Boston rallied in the second half to the beat Indiana Pacers, 84-74, on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Jayson Tatum finished with 15 points. Al Horford added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward had 10 points. It was the first playoff game since 2017 for Irving and Hayward after each missed last year’s postseason with injuries.
“I just try to be aggressive on the ball, be in the right spots,” Irving said. “I just really want to be aggressive and really be the head of the snake.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston.
The Pacers led by 11 points in the first half but had just eight points in the third quarter. The Celtics capitalized and led by as many as 22 in the fourth. The 29 points that Indiana scored in the second half were its worst of the season.
Cory Joseph had 14 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic was the lone Pacers starter in double figures with 12 points.
Both teams shot under 40 percent for the game. Boston hit just 36 percent (28 of 77) and had 20 turnovers. Indiana connected on 33 percent of its shots (28 of 84) and turned it over 13 times.
The Celtics’ 84 points were their fewest of the season and marked the first time they scored fewer than 100 points and won.
“We held them to 84 points. We just didn’t score enough,” Indiana’s Wesley Matthews said.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Pacers coach Nate McMillan both said before the series that the more physical team would have the edge.
After a shaky start, it turned out to be Boston.
Boston opened the third quarter with a 22-3 run to take a 60-48 lead. The Pacers didn’t get their first field goal of the second half until Joseph dropped in a layup with 3:38 left in the third. They finished the quarter 2 for 19 from the field.
“I thought we kind of lost our way,” McMillan said. “They got the momentum and really never let that go.”
Likewise, Stevens said his team found something in that quarter.
“They missed some shots, but we were really connected,” he said. “We were really playing hard. We were really flying around.”
►(At) Portland 104, Oklahoma City 99: Damian Lillard scored 30 points and third-seeded Portland opened its playoff series against No. 6 Oklahoma City with a victory.
Enes Kanter added 20 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who were making their sixth straight postseason appearance. CJ McCollum added 24 points.
Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career postseason triple-double. Paul George, who was a game-time decision because of a sore shoulder, added 26 points and 10 rebounds after a slow start.
►(At) Houston 122, Utah 90: James Harden had 29 points and 10 assists to help the Rockets rout the Jazz in the opener of a best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
The Rockets had a double-digit lead for most of the game, but the Jazz got within five points midway through the third quarter before Houston used a big run to pull away and sail to the victory.
Houston’s starting lineup helped carry the scoring load on Sunday night, with each starter scoring at least 10 points. Eric Gordon had 17, Clint Capela scored 16, Chris Paul added 14 and P.J. Tucker had 11.
Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jazz. Donovan Mitchell had 19 points, but did not have an assist as the Jazz went long stretches without scoring.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Houston.