INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – After meeting one of the most iconic players the last two playoffs, the Pacers are set to take on one of the most iconic franchises this time around.
Indiana will face the 17-time NBA champion Boston Celtics in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series starting Sunday after falling to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round two straight years.
“It’s not LeBron, but it’s still a good Eastern Conference team,” said center Myles Turner. “We have to stay composed and just try to will our way to victory. We’re ready for something greater. It’s what we’ve been working for all season. We’re right back in the mix.”
“Everybody just has to focus on believing we can win whatever game is in front of us,” guard Darren Collison said. “Nothing last year matters. Just focus on what we can do in game one and I think we’ll be in good shape.”
“The biggest thing is just staying healthy and making sure we play Pacers’ basketball, execute, stay together and continue to fight through the tough moments,” said forward Thaddeus Young.
Guards Wesley Matthews and Tyreke Evans are expected to be at full strength for the series after missing time down the stretch. Matthews sat out three of the teams’ last five games with hamstring and toe injuries, while Evans has battled a knee issue throughout the season.
“I feel pretty good. That last game gave me confidence shooting the ball,” said Evans, who scored 27 points in the Pacers’ regular season finale in Atlanta.
Evans will play in just his fifth career playoff game on Sunday, while Matthews made the postseason for the fifth time in his 10-year career.
“This is the time when everybody makes their money,” Matthews said. “The regular season is great. The regular season is beneficial, meaningful and everything, but at the end of the day only a select few teams make it. If the playoffs weren’t special, then every team would be in it.”
The Celtics will be without key contributor Marcus Smart for the series. Smart suffered a torn oblique muscle Sunday against Orlando.
“He’s one of the strongest guards in the league, said forward Bojan Bogdanovic. “He can guard one through five. They played him on Myles the last couple of minutes of the game in Boston. He’s one of the best defenders, but no matter who is out there, we have to be focused on ourselves and play our game.”
Game 1: Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in Boston
Game 2: Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in Boston
Game 3: Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Game 4: Sunday, April 21st at 1:00 p.m at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Game 5: Wednesday, April 24th in Boston*
Game 6: Friday, April 26th at Bankers Life Fieldhouse*
Game 7: Sunday, April 28th in Boston*