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HomeBasketballNBAWill the Celtics romp to the NBA Finals or do the Pacers...

Will the Celtics romp to the NBA Finals or do the Pacers pull off the upset?

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The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers have taken vastly different roads to the 2024 Eastern Conference Finals.

The No. 1-seed Celtics have gone through the postseason relatively easily to this point. Boston is 8-2 in the playoffs and is a couple of hot shooting nights from being undefeated in the second season. It’s the Celtics’ sixth East Final in eight years. The 6-seed Pacers outmanned the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks to get to their first East Final since back-to-back trips in 2013 and 2014.

The combatants have gotten to this point with different approaches.

Boston’s high-end talent has carried the Celtics through the first two playoff rounds. The Celtics when healthy have the second-best starting 5 in the League outside of Denver. Even without starting center Kristaps Porzingis, who continues to nurse a calf injury, Boston’s big guns have carried the load.

Indiana has won with depth. The Pacers young legs got past an old, and injured, Bucks team. Indiana got down 3-2 to New York before earning blowout wins in game 6 and 7. The Pacers go nine deep and have seven players averaging at least 10 points a game through 13 playoff games. That includes reserves Obi Toppin and TJ McConnell to go with all five starters.

The East Finals marks the seventh time Boston and Indiana will match up in the playoffs — all since 1991. The Celtics lead the series 4-2.

The teams played five entertaining games this season, with Boston winning the season series 3-2. The squads haven’t matched up since Jan. 30, before Indiana pulled off a deal to land forward Pascal Siakam in a move that has propelled them to this point. The Celtics were able to score almost at will in each matchup. Boston even dropped 155 on Indiana in a Nov. 1 win. For the season, the Celtics put up 129 points per game against the Pacers, out scoring Indiana by more than 12 points per game.

Boston star Jayson Tatum feasted on the Indiana defense. Tatum in four games against the Pacers put up a 32.5/11.0/5.8 on 57.8% field goal shooting. Tatum shot nearly 49% from 3 against Indiana.

Pacers All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton struggled in his four games against Boston. Haliburton averaged 15.8 points, 9.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds against the Celtics, but he only shot 41.1% from the field and around 32% from 3.

Haliburton has to play better if Indiana is to advance to its second NBA Finals. Boston, though, has all the personnel to make Haliburton’s life hell over the course of the series. The Celtics have four players in their starting 5 — Derrick White, Jrue Holiday, Jaylen Brown and Tatum — they can throw at Haliburton. That’s four potential long, strong all-league caliber defenders.

Depth may be the story of the East Finals.

Boston may be without Porzingis for a stretch. The Celtics through the playoffs have essentially played seven players. Boston has three guys averaging more than 35 minutes a game. No one on the Pacers plays more than 35 minutes a night.

Boston is the better team. The Celtics have been the best team in the league since mid-October. But depth, or a lack thereof, can become a huge problem in the playoffs. Ask the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks.

Can Indiana ride its depth to what would be a historic upset? Or will Boston’s top-end talent continue its romp through the East?

Things are breaking right for the Celtics across the league. The defending champs are out. The other remaining teams are nowhere near as tested as Boston.

I think that experience wins out.

Boston in 5.

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