The Boston Celtics have been at their best this season when they are forcing turnovers, spacing the floor and knocking down outside shots.
They found out in their win at home against the Pacers that they were equipped to win an ugly, physical game as well.
Irving and Marcus Morris each scored 20 points, and the Celtics rallied in the second half to beat the Indiana Pacers, 84-74, on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Jayson Tatum finished with 15 points for fourth-seeded Boston, and Al Horford added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward had 10 points. It was the first playoff game since 2017 for Irving and Hayward after each missed last year’s postseason with injuries.
“I just try to be aggressive on the ball, be in the right spots,” Irving said. “I just really want to be aggressive and really be the head of the snake.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston.
The fifth-seeded Pacers led by 11 points in the first half but had just 8 in the third quarter. The Celtics capitalized and led by as many as 22 in the fourth. Indiana finished with a season-worst 29 points in the second half.
Cory Joseph had 14 points for the Pacers, and Bojan Bogdanovic was their lone starter in double figures with 12 points.
Both teams shot worse than 40 percent from the field. Boston hit just 36 percent (28 of 77) and had 20 turnovers. Indiana connected on 33 percent of its shots (28 of 84) and turned the ball over 13 times.
The Celtics’ 84 points were their fewest of the season; it was the first time Boston scored fewer than 100 points and won.
“We held them to 84 points,” Indiana’s Wesley Matthews said. “We just didn’t score enough.”
BUCKS 121, PISTONS 86 Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes, and top-seeded Milwaukee routed eighth-seeded Detroit in their East opener.
Antetokounmpo ran and dunked all over the visiting Pistons, who caught him only when center Andre Drummond shoved him to the ground late in the third quarter after Antetokounmpo grabbed an offensive rebound with Detroit trailing by 41 points.
Drummond was given a flagrant 2 foul and ejected. He threw a kiss to the Fiserv Forum crowd as he was escorted off the court.
Antetokounmpo struggled at the free-throw line, making only five of 12 attempts, but was 9 for 17 from the field and 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
Luke Kennard paced the Pistons with 21 points off the bench, and Drummond had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Detroit played without forward Blake Griffin, who has a left knee injury.
TRAIL BLAZERS 104, THUNDER 99 Damian Lillard scored 30 points and third-seeded Portland opened its Western Conference series against sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder with a win at home.
Enes Kanter added 20 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who are making their sixth straight postseason appearance but had lost eight games in a row over the previous two postseasons. C J McCollum added 24 points.
Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career postseason triple-double. Paul George, who was a game-time decision because of a sore shoulder, added 26 points and 10 rebounds after a slow start.
Portland led by as many as 19 points in the first half, but the Thunder pulled to 80-77 early in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City could not get closer, and Lillard hit a 30-footer to extend the Blazers’ lead to 89-81 with 6 minutes 38 seconds left.
Westbrook appeared to hurt his right knee or ankle and grimaced while trying to walk it off. Trainers attended to him on the bench at the next timeout but he returned and his layup closed the gap to 91-87 with just under four minutes left.
ROCKETS 122, JAZZ 90 James Harden had 29 points and 10 assists to help host Houston rout Utah on Sunday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference series.
The fourth-seeded Rockets had a double-digit lead for most of the game, but the fifth-seeded Jazz pulled to 5 behind midway through the third quarter before Houston used a big run to pull away. Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Jazz.
It is the second consecutive year these teams have met in the postseason; Houston eliminated Utah in five games in the second round last season.
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