Kyrie Irving Drops 37 Points as Celtics Storm Back, Beat Pacers to Take 2-0 Lead

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2019

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 17: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against the Indiana Pacers in Game Two of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics on April 17, 2019 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Boston Celtics are in full control of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series with the Indiana Pacers following Wednesday's 99-91 victory in Game 2 at TD Garden.

The fourth-seeded Celtics defended home court and now lead 2-0, while the fifth-seeded Pacers will look for answers as the series heads to Indiana for the next two games.

Jayson Tatum (26 points) drilled a go-ahead three-pointer in the final minute and assisted on a Gordon Hayward basket on Boston's ensuing possession to help his team overcome a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving was the driving force in the comeback, though, and he finished with 37 points, seven assists, six rebounds and six made three-pointers.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 for Indiana, but the visitors managed a mere 12 points in the fourth quarter and collapsed on offense.

           

Kyrie Can Only Provide False Hope for Celtics for So Long

Irving was brilliant Wednesday and continued to add to a playoff legacy that already includes three trips to the NBA Finals and a title-winning three-pointer against arguably the best team in league history.

He was far too explosive for any Pacers guard and put the Celtics on his back with his lethal outside shooting, timely transition opportunities and willingness to facilitate when Indiana sent multiple defenders his way.

Irving is the type of star who can propel the Celtics on a deep playoff run by taking over in crunch time, much like he did in Game 2 against the Pacers.

However, he is also providing Boston false hope in a season that should be considered NBA Finals or bust after the team reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without him and Hayward last year.

The first two games of this series were just as much about what Indiana is missing as what Boston has at its disposal. A healthy Victor Oladipo—who led the league in steals and was an All-Defensive selection in 2017-18—would be the one tasked with slowing Irving down with the game on the line had he not suffered a ruptured quadriceps tendon in January.

Irving is still talented enough to put up numbers, but he would have to work much harder than he does against a backcourt of role players in Darren Collison, Wesley Matthews and Cory Joseph.

Oladipo is also the one who would bail the Pacers out of their ice-cold stretches on the road. Indiana was in full control of Game 2 after holding the Celtics to 16 points in the third quarter and building a double-digit lead only to score a paltry three points through the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter.

That's unacceptable in a playoff game.

The Pacers held the Celtics to a mere 84 points in Game 1 and still lost by 10, which is also unacceptable. With Oladipo sidelined, they lack a go-to option to turn to in crunch time of a playoff game and have resembled a struggling college team instead of a professional outfit in two winnable road games.

The road is about to get much more difficult for the Celtics with some combination of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid standing in the way of their first Finals appearance since 2010.

Those All-Stars can match Irving bucket-for-bucket down the stretch and put away a vulnerable Celtics team that could have been down 2-0 in their first-round series if the Pacers mustered an even average offensive output.

Irving deserves all of the credit he will receive for another incredible playoff performance, but Boston fans should temper their expectations if they think beating a lackluster and star-less Pacers team means their squad is ready to put its regular-season inconsistency behind it and reach the NBA Finals.

              

What's Next?

The series shifts to Indiana for Friday's Game 3 and Sunday's Game 4.

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