The Boston Celtics are controlling matters on both ends of the floor against the Indiana Pacers and can become the first NBA team to advance to the second round of the playoffs when the teams play Game 4 of their best-of-seven series Sunday in Indianapolis. The fourth-seeded Celtics have held the Pacers to an average of 87 points while racing to a 3-0 series lead, gaining a stranglehold on fifth-seeded Indiana with a 104-96 road win Friday night.
"We've come a long way," All-Star guard Kyrie Irving told reporters. "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." Jaylen Brown, who is starting at shooting guard with Marcus Smart (oblique) sidelined, scored 23 points while making 8-of-9 shots -- 4-of-5 from 3-point range -- on Friday. Tyreke Evans led seven players in double figures with 19 points for the Pacers, who fell victim to another bad quarter by losing the third by a 21-12 margin. "In the third quarter, we lost our patience," Pacers coach Nate McMillan, whose team also scored 12 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and had just eight in the third quarter of Game 1, told the media. "We took quick shots, bailed them out, and lost our rhythm."
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ABC LINE: Celtics -2.5
ABOUT THE CELTICS: Irving finished Game 3 with 19 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and just two turnovers in 37 dominant minutes, and he's averaging 25.3 points and eight assists in the series. "It's extremely helpful," forward Jayson Tatum told reporters of playing with Irving when he's at his best. "He can get his own shot whenever he wants to. When they blitzed him he's been great at making the right pass in this game and the last one." Tatum is averaging 19.7 points while shooting 53.2 percent from the floor -- including 7-of-12 from long range -- in the series.
ABOUT THE PACERS: No team in NBA history has ever won a series after falling behind 3-0, and Indiana is just about reduced to playing for pride at this point. "The silver lining is that we've been in every single game," point guard Darren Collison told reporters. "All it takes is one win. Definitely ain't going to be no quit in us. I know it sounds foolish outside looking in, being down 3-0, but in this locker room there's definitely not going to be no quit." Evans is 8-for-13 from 3-point range in the series but his teammates are a combined 22-for-78.
1. Pacers SG Wesley Matthews, who averaged 12.2 points during the regular season, is averaging 8.3 on 34.8 percent shooting in the series.
2. Boston has a 148-118 rebounding advantage through the first three games.
3. Game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for Wednesday in Boston.
PREDICTION: Celtics 102, Pacers 99 Bet Now
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