The Celtics have a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals over the Pacers.
It took the Celtics a full 82-game season and three more in the first round of the playoffs, but Boston may finally be playing exactly how everyone thought they would before the season.
“Now that the stakes are at their highest, the pressure or whatever you want to call it, I feel like we’re settling into who we really want to be,” Kyrie Irving told reporters after Boston’s 104-96 Game 3 win over the Pacers on Friday.
The Celtics were one of the biggest conundrums in the NBA this season. One year after winning 55 games, earning a No. 2 seed in the East and coming within one game of a trip to the NBA finals without Irving or Gordon Hayward, the Celtics won 49 games in 2018-19 at nearly full health while finishing fourth in the conference.
They did all of that while looking disjointed and uncomfortable and playing remarkably inconsistently. Boston had an eight-game winning streak during the year but other than that it won five games in a row just one other time while tallying five three-game losing streaks and two of four games as well.
Boston went through one stint in November where it lost eight of 11 games and fell to 10-10 on the season. And again, all of this happened when the team was virtually at full health. It was bizarre.
But now the Celtics have started their first-round series up 3-0 on Indiana and find themselves one win away from the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
And all Irving feels like the Celtics need to do to continue their success is keep doing what they’re already doing.
“As long as we’re locked in and communicative at both ends of the floor, having some fun, playing hard,” Irving said, “we’ll be OK.”
Game 4 will tip off Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in Indiana.