INDIANAPOLIS — Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris dusted off their 3-point shooting touch in time to help the Boston Celtics complete a clean sweep in an NBA first-round playoff series on Sunday.
Hayward scored 20 points, Morris added 18 and the duo combined for five 3s over the final 5½ minutes to give Boston a 110-106 victory and its first 4-0 series victory in eight years.
“I knew there was going to be a spark off the bench. (On Sunday) and that person was Gordon Hayward,” All-Star guard Kyrie Irving said. “This is his city. I’m glad he had a chance to put on a performance like that in a closeout game.”
Just how rare is a sweep for a franchise with a league-record 17 titles?
Since 1986-87, the Celtics had done it just once — in the first round against the New York Knicks. And between the Celtics’ title-clinching sweep over the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958-59 and their perfect run through the 1985-86 Eastern Conference finals against Milwaukee, the Celtics achieved it just twice — in 1979 against Houston and in 1980 against Chicago.
So when coach Brad Stevens was asked Saturday about how he’d react if his players earned some time off, Stevens said he wasn’t sure.
Now, last year’s Eastern Conference runner-ups can start a new to-do list with a potential matchup looming against the top-seeded Bucks.
“It’s going to take everything we have,” Hayward said. “That’s why it’s good we finished this series. We can rest up, prepare, and have some extra time.”
Clearly, the Celtics played better than a No. 4 seed in this series.
They won the first three games on the strength of a suffocating second-half defense that twice limited the Pacers 12-point quarters and once to eight. This time, they finished the job by grinding it out behind a group of polished veterans.
The game swung when Indiana guard Cory Joseph was called for a Flagrant 1 foul with 6:45 left. Jayson Tatum made both free throws to give Boston an 83-82 lead. After Al Horford made 1 of 2 free throws on Boston’s next possession and then Morris knocked down a 3 and Hayward completed a three-point play to give the Celtics a 90-83 advantage with 4:15 to go.
Hayward and Morris were just getting started. Over the next three-plus minutes, they made three more 3s to give Boston a 102-90 lead with 1:04 to go.
Even a final flurry of 3s couldn’t bail out Indiana. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 22 points and Tyreke Evans scored a playoff career-high 21 as the Pacers got swept for the second time in three years — the only two times it has happened in franchise history.
“They got hot,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said. “They started making shots and we stopped making shots. That’s one of the biggest things that’s haunted us through this whole series.”
Celtics: Closed out the series with their seventh straight win against Indiana this season. … Irving had 14 points and seven assists. Tatum had 18 points and eight rebounds and Morris also had eight rebounds. … Al Horford had 14 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. … Jaylen Brown added 13 points and Terry Rozier added 11 off the bench. … Boston was 11 of 28 on 3s, 5 of 7 in the fourth.
Pacers: Darren Collison had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. Young added nine points and nine rebounds. … Domantas Sabonis scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Myles Turner had 13 points and seven rebounds…. The Pacers shot 40.9 percent from the field in the game and missed more than a handful of shots at the rim. …
The Big O
Pacers fans welcomed back All-Star guard Victor Oladipo with a standing ovation Sunday, his first public appearance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since he suffered a season-ending injury to his right knee.
Oladipo sat safely behind Indiana’s bench, stood and waved to the crowd when he was introduced during the first stoppage in play.
While Oladipo did not talk to reporters, he did get a hug and spoke briefly with Irving after the final buzzer sounded.
They said it
Celtics: “You have to earn it every time you play the Pacers,” Stevens said. “They just play so hard, and they play so together. If you take your foot off the gas at any point in time, you’re in trouble.”
Pacers: “A lot of people downplayed Boston as a team,” coach Nate McMillan said. “But we knew they would get it right come playoff time.
Celtics: Will wait for their second-round opponent. Pacers: Contemplate how to improve next season.