June 13, 2024

Celtics-Pacers preview: Jayson Tatum vs. Tyrese Haliburton and keys to Eastern Conference finals

BOSTON — The Celtics’ break is almost over.

After closing their second-round sequence on Wednesday, they realized their Eastern Conference finals opponent on Sunday when the Indiana Pacers eliminated the New York Knicks in seven video games. The Celtics and Pacers will open their sequence on Tuesday night time at TD Garden with an NBA Finals berth on the road.

What would be the keys within the matchup in opposition to Indiana? We’re glad you requested.

1. How a lot can the Celtics restrict Tyrese Haliburton?

Jared Weiss: Beating Tyrese Haliburton begins with Boston’s shot choice. Can the Celtics take good pictures and preserve numbers in transition protection? What makes the Pacers harmful in transition isn’t that they’ll race out with a numbers benefit, however Haliburton can get off the ball early and then be a risk as a trailing 3-point shooter. Boston wants his 3s to be stepbacks in isolation as a lot as attainable.

Haliburton needs the Celtics in drop protection so he can get downhill to floater vary, so Boston was at its greatest in opposition to him when switching or placing two defenders on the ball. Indiana will counter this by giving him increased screens or working him off-ball out of the nook, plus Indiana retains size on the ground to be an issue on the offensive glass. So a lot of curbing Haliburton is making certain Indiana doesn’t get second possibilities when Pascal Siakam and Obi Toppin crash for boards.

In Boston’s one sport in opposition to Indiana after the Siakam commerce, it appeared like Haliburton’s technique was to get Kristaps Porziņģis dropping deep towards the rim, then kick the ball again to the perimeter so the Pacers might get clear seems. Since Porziņģis may not be again early on this sequence, will probably be fascinating to see how a lot Al Horford pressures the ball so Indiana has to beat Boston to the rim.

Jay King: Compared to his unimaginable early-season success, Haliburton struggled after the All-Star break. His 3-point capturing percentages plummeted late within the season, however he has regained his exterior stroke to some extent within the playoffs whereas capturing 37.5 % on greater than 9 3-point makes an attempt per sport. Though he has had some duds within the postseason, he additionally delivered just a few massive video games in opposition to the Knicks, together with a 26-point effort in Game 7.

Can the Celtics steal a few of his consolation? They will doubtless attempt to run him off the 3-point arc, restrict his staff’s transition alternatives (he dissects opponents with passing on the break), and be bodily with him. That’s all simpler stated than carried out, particularly as a result of the Pacers play with such tempo, however Boston has waves of massive perimeter defenders to ship at Haliburton. Horford, who spent quite a lot of the second spherical chasing guards across the perimeter, threw again the clock to shut down the Cavs’ Darius Garland in Game 5 of that sequence however will doubtless be examined extra by Haliburton.

2. How a lot will Indiana find a way to dictate tempo — and how a lot will it matter?

King: Before assembly the Pacers within the In-Season Tournament, the Celtics targeted closely on controlling the sport’s tempo. While listening to Joe Mazzulla and the gamers talk about the subject, I virtually thought they spent an excessive amount of power attempting to decelerate the motion. Sure, a slower sport most likely favors Boston, however damaging the Indiana protection in transition can also be essential.

The Pacers do need to play quick although. Extremely quick. While on offense, they used much less of the shot clock than another staff this season, in accordance to Inpredictable.com. They have been additionally the fastest-paced staff after opposing buckets, so they fight to run in any state of affairs. And they don’t merely attempt to shoot rapidly. They run quick. They lower quick. They play quick in each approach. With their tempo, they’ll punish even the briefest moments of carelessness. Through two rounds of the playoffs, they’re the one staff that has scored extra effectively than the Celtics. Indiana completed second behind Boston in regular-season offensive score.

This sequence might be a take a look at of the Celtics’ defensive self-discipline. Can they keep connected to shooters constantly? Can they keep bodily with Haliburton on each possession? Can they keep attentive on cutters to take away a number of the straightforward buckets Indiana produces so recurrently? Can they execute on offense to restrict the Pacers’ transition alternatives?

Weiss: The Celtics have been nice at operating off makes in opposition to Cleveland, so Indiana’s tempo shouldn’t be a shock to the system. So a lot of this sequence will come down to Boston’s 3-point capturing and whether or not the Pacers can get out and operating off misses. The Celtics will most likely get to post-ups lots to mess with Indiana’s defensive alignment and attempt to get guys in foul bother. Anything to forestall the basic Haliburton early kick-aheads that end in him attacking open house just a few moments later.

Boston will typically have his man down within the dunker spot to hold him 94 toes away from the opposite finish, to ensure that he can’t get an outlet go and run forward of the transition protection. The Celtics have the posh of loads of particular person scorers New York didn’t, so the Pacers gained’t find a way to get right into a rhythm attacking in transition fairly as simply after they don’t know the place Boston’s offense is coming from.

Pascal Siakam brings size and athleticism to the Pacers. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)

3. Can the Celtics make the most of the Pacers’ shaky protection?

King: After the Siakam addition, the Pacers aren’t precisely the identical staff that ranked twenty fourth in defensive effectivity in the course of the common season. They have been a barely much less abominable nineteenth after the commerce deadline; Siakam provides them size and athleticism they are going to want badly within the East finals.

The Pacers protection, nonetheless, continues to be problematic. They ranked twelfth in protection out of 16 groups within the first spherical even whereas dealing with the Milwaukee Bucks with out Giannis Antetokounmpo. Indiana was equally roasted by the Knicks earlier than New York primarily ran out of wholesome our bodies. The Celtics ought to find a way to rating on this sequence.

Expect them to goal Haliburton, not simply because he’s a questionable defender but in addition as a result of the toll of guarding each motion ought to diminish his affect on the opposite finish. The Celtics have sufficient measurement to go after Haliburton in all kinds of the way. They might publish him up with Jrue Holiday. They might throw him into screening actions in opposition to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Celtics lineup doesn’t provide a spot to conceal. They are ruthless at their greatest.

One subplot I’m eagerly anticipating: The Aaron Nesmith expertise. He at all times performs like the subsequent possession might determine the destiny of his total life. With a visit to the NBA Finals on the road in opposition to his former staff, I anticipate him to spin across the court docket like a twister. I might set the over/underneath at 5 minutes earlier than he crashes into one of many Celtics gamers, sending them each tumbling to the court docket. Can Nesmith, one of many Pacers with sufficient physicality to compete with the large Boston wings, trouble them in any respect? It needs to be enjoyable to see him attempt.

Weiss: Expect to see the Celtics do to Haliburton what they did with Garland and the Heat’s Tyler Herro. Tatum or Brown will carry the ball downcourt, whoever Haliburton is guarding will come over to run right into a display screen, and the Celtics will play out of that motion. Either of the Jays can put a shoulder into him to get downhill and power the Pacers into rotation, then kick it out to discover the shooter. It’s going to be a tall problem for Rick Carlisle to discover methods to counter this, identical to it was for Cleveland and Miami.

Because of Tatum and Brown, Boston is healthier geared up to go proper at heart Myles Turner than most groups within the league, in order that already mitigates an enormous benefit Indiana had in opposition to New York. When or if Porziņģis returns on this sequence, that’s three gamers on the ground who can rating over anybody. The Pacers don’t have perimeter defenders who’re each bodily and disciplined, so it’s laborious to think about them containing Boston’s drives within the half court docket for too lengthy.

Boston can play affected person and arrange its bodily leverage factors the place it needs, so the Celtics ought to find a way to dictate the tempo of the sport so long as they aren’t capturing ice chilly. If that doesn’t work, they’ll go to unfold pick-and-roll to get Derrick White, Tatum and Brown some pull-up seems. Andrew Nembhard and Nesmith can trouble them a bit getting over these screens, however good luck holding these guys out of foul bother.

4. Will T.J. McConnell and the Pacers bench proceed producing massive runs?

Weiss: After profitable Game 7 in opposition to the Knicks, Haliburton stated the Pacers have one of the best bench within the NBA. That is perhaps a stretch, however they’re actually enjoying prefer it proper now.

T.J. McConnell was one of many Pacers’ greatest gamers within the Knicks sequence, as his means to hit pictures by the timber deep within the paint has been a security web for Indiana when Haliburton is off the ground. McConnell is so good at staying on the assault on each ends of the ground and making affect performs within the nooks and crannies. Boston often needs to goal small guards in isolation, however McConnell is such a tricky defender with nice palms that he can disrupt anybody’s rhythm.

The massive query for the Celtics is whether or not they are going to change Indiana’s bigs, which might be the easiest way to hold McConnell from getting downhill. But even when he has facilities on him, he’s so good at driving underneath the rim to reset the assault from the publish and catch defenders off guard. Especially with Ben Sheppard capturing so properly and Toppin being a risk to lower when McConnell inverts the form of the offense, the Pacers bench goes to pose actual issues for the likes of Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser on protection.

King: McConnell shifts all the form of a sport. During the second spherical, the Pacers outscored the Knicks by 31 factors with him within the lineup whereas dropping all the opposite minutes by three. He picks up steals within the full court docket. He attaches himself to the opponent’s ballhandlers. He is a tiny lightning bolt placing in all places throughout the court docket.

The Celtics bench, like Indiana’s, has modified loads of video games this season. This sequence ought to present a very good conflict of two high-energy second models. Pritchard versus McConnell needs to be feisty. They have each made their affect felt within the playoffs.

5. What needs to be the expectation for Kristaps Porziņģis?

King: Porziņģis final labored out in entrance of the media at Celtics shootaround earlier than Game 4 of the second spherical. He operated at removed from high pace that day however has had practically per week to get well since then. Working in his favor, the beginning of the East finals was pushed again to Tuesday, permitting him a few further days to relaxation. By the time the sequence begins, he might be practically three weeks faraway from his calf harm. The common time misplaced to a soleus pressure is 17 days, in accordance to In Street Clothes. If that estimate is related, Porziņģis needs to be shut to coming again.

When requested if there’s optimism the large man might return in some unspecified time in the future this sequence, Mazzulla stated, “I’m an optimistic person in general.”

It wouldn’t be a shock to see Porziņģis throughout this sequence, however calf accidents will be tough. The Celtics needs to be cautious. They shouldn’t want to rush him again in the event that they proceed to deal with enterprise like they’ve.

Weiss: This can also be a kind of matchups the place Porziņģis isn’t a perfect match. As we talked about above, the Pacers’ offensive sport plan is to get Porziņģis dropping to the rim to allow them to get cleaner seems from 3 and take some floaters. The Pacers will run a ton of Haliburton-Turner pick-and-roll so Turner can get wide-open 3s. If he isn’t capturing, the Pacers can run that motion from the left elbow so Turner can get to his righty hook over Porziņģis. Having Horford in there switching and forcing Indiana to play with much less move and assault cross matches is for one of the best, no less than on protection.

Boston would love Porziņģis’ flooring spacing on the opposite finish to make Turner pay for dropping on pick-and-rolls. You noticed how Turner’s rim safety ruined each Knicks run in Game 7, and he would make life powerful for Tatum and Brown. If Porziņģis will get on the market, anticipate to see quite a lot of pick-and-pops or simply spacing out to the elbows. Boston will need to restrict how a lot he has to run downhill and how far he has to run to get again on protection, particularly in opposition to the staff that loves to hit the fuel early and typically.

Required Reading

(Top picture: Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)