Sun, Apr 21, 2019 - Page 11 News List

Celtics nab 3-0 series lead

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:Pascal Siakam’s 30 points helped the Raptors to a six-point victory over Orlando, including a ringer late in the fourth to stop a Magic rally

AP, INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana

The Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, center, goes to the basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Nerlens Noel, left, in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Friday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The Boston Celtics keep following the same game plan.

Three games into their first-round playoff series, and it is still working.

Another dominant second-half defensive performance on Friday helped the Celtics retake control of the game, and another late scoring run helped them pull away from Indiana for a 104-96 victory and a 3-0 series lead.

“We’ve come a long way,” All-Star guard Kyrie Irving said. “We’re all making sure we’re giving each other confidence and doing the little things to ensure we win. When you have that type of camaraderie, executing is a lot easier.”

While the names and numbers seem to change on a daily basis, the results have remained strikingly consistent.

The Celtics turned Game 1 by limiting the Pacers to eight third-quarter points and won by 10. In Game 2, the Celtics erased a huge deficit by allowing just 12 fourth-quarter points as they won by eight.

This time, it was a 12-point third quarter that swung the momentum.

If they can do it one more time today, last year’s Eastern Conference runners-up will be headed to the conference semi-finals.

“In Game 4, we expect [Indiana] to take it to another level,” Jaylen Brown said after scoring 23 points. “We’ve got to come out and not take our foot off the gas.”

For Indiana, it has been a nightmare of a series.

“In the third quarter, we lost our patience,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “We took quick shots, bailed them out and lost our rhythm.”

RAPTORS 98, MAGIC 93

The Toronto Raptors think Pascal Siakam should be selected the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

He was their most valuable player on Friday, and the East’s No. 2 seeds have the home-court edge back again.

Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, hitting a floater with 1 minute, 33 seconds left to help snuff out a big Orlando rally, as the Raptors held off the Magic 98-93 to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.

“He’s unbelievable,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “He’s the most-improved basketball player in the NBA this year and he’s only going to get better.”

Siakam was 13 of 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36 percent shooting.

Kawhi Leonard — battling illness this week — had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green had 13 points, and Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assists, plus ran down a huge offensive rebound with about 15 seconds left to extend a critical possession and spoil Orlando’s first home playoff game since 2012.

“It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.”

Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Game 4 is tonight in Orlando.

“Our turnovers hurt us again,” Vucevic said, lamenting Orlando’s 16 giveaways.

The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third after a brief Orlando spurt, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good.

The Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of six-and-a-half minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.

Orlando, who finished the regular season by winning 13 of their final 14 home games, were 13 of 44 from three-point range.

Now it is up to Orlando to regroup, the same way Toronto did after dropping Game 1.

“It’s 2-1,” Clifford said. “It’s not like it’s 3-0. It’s 2-1.”

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