Tyrese Haliburton, Jayson Tatum
(NBAE/Getty Images)

High-powered Offenses Headline Eastern Conference Finals Showdown between Pacers and Celtics

Two of the most outstanding scoring teams in NBA history will meet in the 2024 Eastern Conference Finals.

Starting Tuesday at TD Garden, the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics will compete in a seven-game series to advance to the NBA Finals.

Since opening night, the Pacers and Celtics have ranked among the top scoring squads in the NBA, dazzling audiences with their deadeye 3-point shooting, close-range craftiness, frenetic pace, and superb shotmaking abilities.

During the regular season, the Pacers led the league in scoring (123.3), field goal percentage (50.7), assists (30.8), and points in the paint (57.9) averages, while the Celtics finished first in offensive rating (122.2) and total 3-pointers made (1,351) and second in points per game (120.6).

Indiana’s 123.3 points per game are the sixth-most ever by an NBA team in a regular season, and Boston’s 120.6 ranks 22nd on the all-time list.

The 2024 Eastern Conference Finals will be just the sixth time that the top two teams by points per game in the regular season have met in the conference finals or later since the 1983-1984 season.

While points are harder to come by in the postseason, both teams still rank near the top in scoring for the playoffs.

The Pacers’ offense has carried into the postseason, as they rank first in points per game, putting up 114.2 on average through 13 playoff games. Indiana hasn’t lost a game at home in the playoffs, a perfect 6-0, and they kick into extra gear at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, averaging 119.2 points per game at home in the playoffs.

Seven players for the Pacers are averaging double-digit scoring in the playoffs, led by 21.1 points per game by forward Pascal Siakam, 18.8 by All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, and 17.5 by veteran center Myles Turner. After the Pacers’ star trio, Andrew Nembhard (13.0), Obi Toppin (11.0), T.J. McConnell (10.8), and Aaron Nesmith (10.5) are all also averaging 10-plus points.

Additionally, the Pacers enter Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup coming off an all-time playoff performance for any team — and on the road.

Indiana’s top offensive game thus far in Game 7 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, when they shot an NBA playoff record 67.1 percent from the field and matched their Pacers NBA franchise record for points in a playoff game by dropping 130 on the New York Knicks.

En route to a league-best 64-18 record, the Celtics had the No. 1 overall net rating during the regular season.

Five players averaged double-digit points in the regular season for the Celtics, and that trend has continued into the playoffs, where they beat the Miami Heat in the first round and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

In the playoffs, Boston is averaging 108.1 points per game across 10 contests, shooting 48 percent and making 14.5 3-pointers per game.

In the playoffs, Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to lead the Celtics, averaging 24.3 and 23.1 points, respectively. Guard Derrick White (18.2 points per game), 7-foot center Kristaps Porzingis (12.3 points per game), and point guard Jrue Holiday (10.4 points per game) have also consistently scored 10 or more points.

Porzingis, however, has only played in four games in the playoffs, as he injured his calf against Miami. His status for the upcoming series is questionable, and 37-year-old vet Al Horford will likely start in his place for at least the first couple games.

Both teams have seen their scoring go down a tick in the playoffs, but there’s reason to believe there could be some big outbursts in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the regular season, it required at least 122 points to come out with a win in the Pacers-Celtics series.

Boston won the regular season series 3-2 over Indiana, beating the Blue & Gold 155-104 on Nov. 1, 118-101 on Jan. 6, and 129-124 on Jan. 30. Indiana’s wins came in the In-Season Tournament Quarterfinals on Dec. 4 (122-112) and again in Indianapolis on Jan. 8 (133-131).

The Pacers will need to find better ways to slow down Tatum and Brown in Eastern Conference Finals after the two combined for nearly 61 points per game against the Pacers during the regular season.

Tatum averaged 32.5 points against the Pacers in four games played and Brown scored 28.4 points per game across five contests, including a 40-point outing on Jan. 8.

One offensive metric to note in the series is that the Pacers are 2-0 against the Celtics this season when they make more 3-pointers in a game, but 0-3 when Boston makes more from deep.

While most of the Pacers’ players perform close to their typical averages in games against the Celtics, one player in particular — Aaron Nesmith — has elevated his game consistently against Boston.

Nesmith, who was traded from Boston to Indiana in the summer of 2022, has averaged 14.8 points on 50 percent shooting and 4.4 rebounds per game against his former team this season.

Also of note for the Pacers, Siakam only played in one of the Pacers’ games against the Celtics after he was traded to Indiana from Toronto in January. In his lone outing against Boston, on Jan. 30, Siakam logged 23 points and six rebounds.