Gordon Hayward ‘optimistic’ about Boston’s chances to win National Basketball Association title

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The Celtics and Pacers will return to action Wednesday in Boston in Game 2. The Pacers did that exactly, limiting the Celtics and jumping out to an early 12-6 lead.

With a tumultuous regular season behind them, the fourth-seeded Celtics kicked off their NBA Playoff run with a convincing 84-74 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1. Those happen to be Indiana Pacers colors as well, but it was all green on Sunday at the start of what Celtics fans hope is a long postseason run.

It wasn't exactly how the Celtics drew it up. Marcus Morris made up for pretty much everyone in the first half and finished tied with Irving for the team scoring lead. The Indiana Pacers are allowing 35.7 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 42 rebounds per game. Boston came out firing to begin the second half, evening the score at 45 just 3:21 into the half. Barring some extremely unforeseen events, once the Celtics make it past IN, they will face the Milwaukee Bucks, who have the NBA's best record, best point differential and, most importantly, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league's best and most valuable player.

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- Morris' hot start keeps it close. Considering their playoff run past year without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics were expected to be among the top contenders, but have underachieved and enter the playoffs as the East's No. 4 seed.

As the first half wore on, there were plenty of people inside TD Garden wondering if the Celtics would find a way to generate momentum. With how familiar these teams are with each other, having played five times already this season, the Pacers will be sure to make adjustments and get back after it in Game 2, trying to steal one on the road. The C's blew the Pacers off the floor from start to finish in the third, outscoring in 26-8. The Celtics had scored 11 points during that time frame. IN hit halftime up 45-38 despite having zero players in double-figures scoring.

Cory Joseph led the Pacers with 14 points. The approach was not sustainable. Boston got the first basket of the second quarter - a nifty euro-step finish in transition by Gordon Hayward - but in rattled off nine consecutive points and carried that lead into the break thanks in part to Boston's 32.5 percent shooting from the floor, 23.5 percent shooting from three and 10 turnovers, which led to 11 points. Irving, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford are all capable of being even more efficient at the offensive end of the floor as they combed for 16-of-38.