In the Eastern Conference Finals the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics clash with a berth in the NBA Finals on the line. Keep reading for a preview and prediction for this series. And make sure you check out our NBA Playoffs Betting Guide, which will serve as the hub for all of our postseason betting content!

Pacers vs. Celtics Series Preview

There are few certainties in life, but one thing it seems we can always count on is the Boston Celtics making an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. Since 2017 – Jaylen Brown’s rookie season – the Celtics have now made the conference finals six times, and there is nary a Larry O’Brien Trophy to show for it.

 

The pressure is strictly on Boston to not only win this series, but win in convincing fashion. But, the Celtics have hardly made it easy on themselves. 

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Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The betting market has voiced its concerns with early support of the underdog in this series. Boston opened as -1400 favorites to win this series, but the consensus price is now -840 in the market. That is a change from an implied probability of 93.3% to about 89.5% depending on where you shop.

It might seem foolish to believe Indiana could push a team as respected by the market such as Boston, but the regular season does give us some insight.

The Celtics were 3-2 SU/2-3 ATS against the Pacers this season. In those five games Boston posted a +11.7 net rating. However, that net rating is heavily skewed by a blowout 155-104 win in November. If you remove that game from the equation, the Celtics are 2-2 SU/1-3 ATS against the Pacers with a +2.5 net rating.

That is a much closer regular season series, and to make matters even more interesting, Pascal Siakam played in just one of the meetings. It was a 129-124 win for Boston at home, but it was also the first game back from injury for Tyrese Haliburton.

Maybe the market is on to something here?

In the four other games against the Celtics, the Pacers’ offense was very good. They averaged 119.7 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time. Surprisingly, their halfcourt offense was the problem for Boston’s defense. In those settings Indiana averaged 103.2 points per 100 plays. 

The biggest key to success for the Pacers in the series was their ability to take care of the ball. They turned it over on only 9.1% of their offensive possessions. The Celtics are not great at forcing turnovers regardless – they ranked 27th in defensive turnover rate in the regular season – but they are elite in transition off turnovers. Indiana did not give them the opportunity.

Indiana is good enough from beyond the arc to hold its own with Boston in that regard as well. It ranked 10th in 3-point percentage in the regular season (37.9%). The volume was not as high as the Celtics’, but in the postseason the Pacer’s frequency is up to 37.1% and they lead all postseason teams in shooting percentage (38.5%).

It is not out of the realm of possibility that Indiana comes into this series and pushes a Boston defense which has looked downright sloppy at times this postseason.

Having said that, the Pacers will have to defend if they want any chance of competing in this series.

There was much celebration and calling out of naysayers after Indiana’s win over New York on Sunday, but the fact remains that among playoff teams the Pacers are 13th in non-garbage time defensive efficiency (119.3). They are 12th in halfcourt defense (101.3). That is after playing the Bucks who were missing their top two scorers from the regular season at times, and the husk of the Knickerbockers.

Boston will make that unit pay dearly for its transgressions.

This is a series which will likely turn off the recreational bettor. Perhaps the Pacers garner some support to win the series because of the allure that a +600 payout will bring. But, bettors could have grabbed +800 early on Sunday.

I have been guilty of believing that Boston would end both of its previous series in four games, but it took five for each. Perhaps the Celtics finally sweep an Eastern Conference opponent, but I do not believe that will happen with the Pacers.

This series is reminiscent of Boston’s series with Atlanta last season. The Hawks pushed the Celtics further than most anticipated and used great guard play and shooting to extend the series to six games. The Pacers are certainly capable of doing that with their personnel, especially if Tyrese Haliburton has regained his form.

There are two potential options for bettors if that is the case: Over 5.5 games at +125 or better, or Pacers +2.5 games at +130 or better. The probability of Indiana winning the series is minuscule, but perhaps it is larger than the market believes. If that is correct, then there is value in believing the Pacers can make this series last longer than expected.

Recommendations: Over 5.5 games (+125) | Pacers +2.5 games (+130)