It's not easy closing out a tightly-contested playoff game on the road, as the Boston Celtics were trying to do Sunday afternoon in Game 4 of the first round against the Indiana Pacers.
Fortunately, the Celtics had a guy who felt right at home inside Bankers Life Field House, as Indiana native Gordon Hayward helped put the Pacers away, while guiding Boston straight into the second round of the Playoffs.
The Celtics trailed 82-80 with about seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when they started up a game-changing, 13-3 run.
Jayson Tatum and Al Horford got things started from the free-throw line, where they combined for four points to put the C's ahead by two. Domantas Sabonis added a freebie of his own to cut the deficit in half, but a Marcus Morris 3-pointer gave Boston a bit of breathing room on its next possession.
Then, it was time for Hayward to make his imprint. At the 4:24 mark, he showed off his slashing skills as he drove to the rim for an and-one layup, before sinking his free-throw. On Boston's next possession, he showed off his range by burying a 3-pointer to cap off that 13-3 run, giving Boston a 93-85 lead.
Boston's veteran wing wasn't done, though. Indiana still had hope, trailing 99-92 with a minute and a half remaining, but Hayward hammered the nail in the coffin with another 3-pointer to give Boston a 102-92 advantage.
Hayward wound up scoring nine points of his team-high 20 points during that 3:20 span, giving the Celtics enough juice for a 110-106 win, as well as a trip to the second round.
Marcus Morris bookended the first round with near-identical performances, both of which made profound impacts on helping Boston sweep its series against the Indiana Pacers.
The veteran forward tipped off the opening round with a 20-point, seven-rebound effort during an 84-74 win in Boston. He then closed out the series with an 18-point, eight-rebound performance during a 110-106 win in Indianapolis.
Morris made timely shots all afternoon, finishing 7-of-11 from the field, including 2-of-4 from long-range, while also making both of his free-throw attempts. To prove how impactful he was during his 30 minutes off the bench, he also produced a game-high plus/minus rating of plus-18 – an impressive mark for a game that was decided by only four points.
Box Score Nuggets
- Seven of the nine Celtics who played scored in double-figures.
- Gordon Hayward led the scoring for Boston with 20 points.
- Pacers wing Bojan Bogdanovic finished just ahead of Hayward in the scoring column with a game-high 22 points.
- Boston's bench combined for 49 points on 18-of-26 shooting from the field.
- Both teams corralled 43 rebounds. Boston never lost a rebounding battle during the entire series..
- Both teams also dished out 18 assists, made 36 field goals and attempted 28 3-pointers.
- Jayson Tatum tied his career high with 12 free-throw attempts. He made nine of them.
- Al Horford logged the game's only double-double, as he notched 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
- Hayward recorded the only blocked shot of the game for Boston.
- This marked the Celtics' first postseason series sweep since 2011, when they knocked out the Knicks in four games during Round 1.
Quote of the Night
It's just the beginning for us.
Gordon Hayward after closing out Round 1.