BOSTON — There was not a lot to talk about basketball-wise following a stinker of a Game 1 between the Pacers and Celtics. And like the rest of the sporting universe, the dominant conversation concerned Tiger Woods winning the Masters.
“What were the odds on Tiger winning?” Marcus Morris asked two reporters.
Told that they were 14-1, Morris simply grinned, shook his head and said “Should have dropped something on that.”
Morris dropped enough energy and points on the Pacers in the first half to keep the Celtics within striking distance, and a 26-8 third-quarter advantage turned things around as Boston took Game 1 84-74 as an Eastern Conference favorite won for the first time on the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs.
Unlike the shockers in Philadelphia (where Brooklyn won and the Sixers were booed off the court) and in Toronto (where the Raptors were shot down by D.J. Augustin and the Orlando Magic), this was a case of the better team winning.
Not that the Celtics are tremendously better than the Pacers, but there is not a single player on Indiana’s active roster who is capable of saying “Gimme the Ball!” and simply taking over a game. The only Pacer with that in his DNA is Victor Oladipo, who is long gone after right knee surgery.
The Celtics have Kyrie Irving to do that for them.
So while it is easy to say the Pacers are toast, the Sixers have no hope and the Raptors are a lost cause, the truth of the matter is that Game 1 overreactions are an annual happenstance … just like Game 2 adjustments and salvation victories (even though a true salvation game comes when a losing team in a best-of-seven series is down 3-2 and wins Game 6. You may remember that Golden State had one of those vs. Houston in the Western Conference finals last spring.)
“Game 1 doesn’t matter,” said Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, who like everyone on Indiana’s roster put up an unremarkable stat line.
Most galling to the Pacers coaching staff was the last of fast-break points (14, including none in the second half until the final seconds). But also worrisome was the 6-for-27 3-point shooting, the nine missed free throws in 21 attempts and just 13 points scored off of Boston’s 20 turnovers (Indiana had only 13).
Whatever Brad Stevens put in the kool-aid at halftime worked quite well as Boston opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run that was extended to 22-3 as the Pacers missed their first 11 shots, five from behind the arc.
Thankfully, the NBA scheduled this game at a time when most viewers were more interested in golf than basketball, especially with Tiger’s thrilling victory on Sunday at Augusta.
What will make for compelling viewership in the NBA is more of the unexpected happening the way it did Saturday: the Nets and Magic with their upsets, Steph Curry breaking the record for most career postseason 3-pointers, and Patrick Beverley and Kevin Durant getting double ejections.
This is uncharted territory for commissioner Adam Silver and his minions, who had LeBron James around to keep national audiences captivated for 13 consecutive seasons. Silver was pushing for the idea of a midseason tournament at Friday’s Board of Governors meeting, which is a questionable wish. The only tournament that matters to NBA fans is the postseason, and many fans tune out once the team they cheer for is eliminated.
LeBron brought in non-NBA fans, and these playoffs will break low-ratings records unless some storyline becomes captivating enough. For now, the Lakers are still the team everyone seems to be talking about — simply because they are looking for a new coach.
Anybody without a rooting interest who was watching Celtics-Pacers on Sunday afternoon needs a remedial lesson in going to the book store or taking a nice long walk.
It was that bad of a dud.