Indiana Pacers playoff roundtable: Who will win the series?

Indiana Pacers versus Boston Celtics
Indiana Pacers versus Boston Celtics /
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Marcus Smart handles the ball against the Celtics
Marcus Smart handles the ball against the Celtics /

Marcus Smart is going to miss the first round of the playoffs. How much does that help the Indiana Pacers?

Parrish – Smart missing the series is definitely beneficial for the Pacers. He has been a killer at BLF for whatever reason, and he always presents a problem on the defensive side for Boston. Smart is a guy that can get under your skin and feeds off the crowd, and I view him in the same regard as Lance Stephenson. Taking that energy out will be helpful. It will also force more minutes to Terry Rozier (hopefully) which is great for Indiana. In the end, Smart’s absence won’t be entirely crucial, but it will give some hope for the Pacers.

Furr – Marcus Smart being out is huge. He’s the emotional leader of this team, and always seems to make plays when they need it. He’s also a top-flight wing defender and has helped mask Kyrie Irving’s deficiency on that end. Jaylen Brown is still a very good defender, but the options behind him are “meh”. Tyreke Evans is in a position to benefit to a big degree from this. Despite his struggles, he’s been a part of the second best 5 man lineup in the NBA and should be able to run the pick and roll with Sabonis to great effect. The Pacers need him to step up, and this gives him the red carpet entrance to do so.

Matthes – It certainly doesn’t hurt. Smart provided balance to the Celtics this season. All the various shooters that Boston has (Irving, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown) were incapable of coexisting successfully on the court together. Having Smart changed the equation because he was perfectly content not being a lead option, which let Irving and Tatum get their shots, while Hayward and Brown could do likewise in the second unit. No Smart means Boston’s stepping back into the line-up purgatory that they spent the first two-three months of the season trying to figure out. The danger is that if Boston’s three starting wings (whether it’s Brown or Hayward going Irving and Tatum) will now possess more raw offensive power than before, if the Celtics can harness it; which so far this season they haven’t. Either way, Boston has lost its most tenacious wing defender, which is good news for Indiana.

Pfeifer – The short answer? A whole lot. The longer answer? Smart’s injury won’t have massive ramifications on a series where Indiana is already so heavily outmatched, but his injury certainly inspires some semblance of hope. Smart is the third most valuable Celtic and a top 30 player in the NBA this season. The best defensive guard in the league, his bloodhound-like on-ball defense, and stout team defense allow him to eliminate opposing players, like the great Deion Sanders. See his most recent victim, Bojan Bogdanovic, whom he smothered all night, allowing him to score a paltry four points. Without Smart on the floor, more points are on the table for Indiana. An indirect consequence of Smart’s injury is more minutes for Terry Rozier, much to the chagrin of the Boston faithful. His abhorrent shot selection and questionable defense are two factors Indiana needs to exploit ruthlessly.

Eggers: A lot. Perimeter defense starts with Marcus Smart, and his absence is going to open up a lot more wiggle room for guys like Bogey and Matthews. And outside of his defensive presence, Smart was the glue guy for this Celtics squad. Kind of like Draymond or Thad, he’s the guy that gets on the floor for 50/50 balls, gets those few deflections a game that really matters, and brings the kind of intensity that wins playoff series. The Celtics might not need that to win four games against the Pacers, but they sure will wish they had it. Plus, they’ll be entering the playoffs with a little bit of uncertainty lineup-wise. Kyrie-Smart-Tatum-Morris-Horford has been the M.O. in Boston for most of the season, with Hayward and Brown making significant contributions off the bench. The injury shakes that up a bit, and as we’ve seen this year, role changes haven’t exactly gone so smoothly for this Celtics roster.