Hayward After Sweep of Pacers: 'It's Just the Beginning"
INDIANAPOLIS – In order to succeed in the NBA Playoffs, a team must be able to win games in a wide variety of ways. With that regard, the Boston Celtics’ first-round sweep of Indiana is evidence that they’re ready to make a real run.
Each of Boston’s four wins followed a different story. Each win required something new from the C’s. They answered the call each and every time.
Those scenarios have given this group of Celtics a Master’s degree in battling through adversity.
“We have just had a lot of great experience and plays that really are going to matter as we continue to go on this playoff run,” a pleased Kyrie Irving said Sunday afternoon.
His assessment is accurate. Take a look back at what was required of the Celtics in order to pull off this sweep.
Game 1 was a knock-down, drag-out, defensive war.
Game 2 required crunch-time execution in a game that came down to the final minute.
Game 3 required intestinal fortitude after Boston’s 15-point lead turned into a five-point deficit.
Then, on Sunday, Game 4 needed impressive balance across the board.
Boston answered every call. Doing so throughout their four victories gave the Celtics a great deal of satisfaction.
“I’m just proud of us for finding ways to win,” said Gordon Hayward.
Hayward should be particularly proud of the way the Celtics finished off their sweep of Indiana, seeing as he was the one who grabbed a hold of the broom.
Hayward scored nine of his team-best 20 points during the fourth quarter to send the Pacers into their offseason while securing Boston’s berth into the next round. The victory was only enhanced by the fact that Hayward logged it in his home town of Indianapolis.
He said after the game of closing out the series in Indy, “To do it in front of friends and family, it was a lot of fun.”
As much as Hayward enjoyed the experience, Irving was right there with him.
“This is his city. This is where he’s from,” the point guard said. “And I’m glad he had a chance to put on a performance like that in a close-out game, and it really means something to him.”
This win meant much more to the team, though, because of how many players contributed to it.
Seven different Celtics scored between 11 and 20 points, including all three reserves who played at least six minutes. Such balance was necessary on an afternoon that featured a combined 8-for-32 shooting performance by Irving and Al Horford.
“It’s exciting to know that when the pressure, quote unquote, gets high, or when you’re asked to be challenged in a certain situation, that you have guys that can respond to that and respond pretty well,” Irving said of his team’s all-around performance.
Boston responded to everything the Pacers threw at them during this brief series.
They wanted to play ugly? Boston won ugly.
They wanted to take it down to the wire? Boston came through in the clutch.
They wanted to storm back from behind, and put the pressure on the Celtics? Boston owned the adversity.
They wanted to contain Irving and Horford? Boston’s other players stepped up.
Those four Boston victories were littered with hallmark traits of great teams. With their ticket punched into the second round, these Celtics appear to have what it takes to make a sustainable run in the Playoffs – and that’s what they expect will happen.
As Hayward confidently stated after Sunday’s sweep, “It’s just the beginning for us.”