The Ultimate Guide To The 2024 NBA Eastern Conference Finals

The Ultimate Guide To The 2024 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics VS Pacers

The 2024 NBA Eastern Conference Finals are here, as the one seeded Boston Celtics are set to take on the sixth seeded Indiana Pacers beginning on May 21st.

Led by the tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylin Brown, once again the Celtics find themselves back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth and sixth times respectively, which is made all the more impressive when you consider this is only their 7th season as teammates, with Brown and Tatum playing eight and seven seasons respectively in The NBA.

Indiana is led by their 24 year old point guard Tyrese Haliburton, although veteran forward and 2019 NBA champion Pascal Siakam has very clearly been their best player this postseason.

We are nearing the twilight of the 2024 NBA season and that begins with the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Pacers and Celtics have gotten to the same destination in two very different ways.

The Celtics

Being the one seed, the Celtics were heavily favored to come out of the Eastern Conference, and certainly out of their rounds. 

As the NBA’s winningest team this season, The 64-18 Celtics had a tremendous regular season.

Tatum had another terrific year for Boston, averaging 26.9 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists, while shooting 37.6% from three, 47.1% from the field, and 83.3% from the field across the regular season.

However, that offensive output has dipped in the playoffs. Tatum is scoring 24.3 points per game which is not a significant dropoff, but the efficiency has been very poor, the usually dependable forward is shooting a measly 28.1% from beyond the arc and 43% from the field. 

Tatum has increased his rebounds and assists, playing a more traditional power forward role, likely acknowledging his cold shooting stretch, his rebounds are up to 10.4 rebounds per game, and his assists are at 5.8 per game.

Brown has been more consistent scoring from the regular to postseason than Tatum has, averaging 23 points per game in both. Like Tatum, Brown has increased his rebounds per game from going from 5.5 to 6.6, he has differed in that his three point shooting percentage has jumped from 35.4% to 36.7%.

Other key players on this Celtics roster have been veteran big man Al Horford, point guard Derrick White, former NBA champion and defensive maestro Jrue Holiday, along with sharpshooting guard Peyton Pritchard, and forward Sam Hauser.

Now in his age 37 season Horford, has averaged 8.8 points per game along with 7.3 rebounds per game, in 28.6 minutes per game. 

Horford is usually a bench player for Boston, which is unsurprising given his age, but with defensive anchor Kristaps Porzingis out with a calf injury sustained in game 4 of the first round, he has started in 6 games.

Horford  has averaged 8.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. One thing that has been concerning Horford’s play, has been his three point regression, going from 41.9% from three on 4 three pointers attempted, to 32% from three point territory on 5 attempts.

All reports indicate that Porzingas will return in time for game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 24th, in Boston, so naturally an assumption can be made that Horford will go back to the bench and that playing time will decrease, it’s going to be interesting to see how that tandem is managed by second year head coach Joe Mazzulla moving forward. 

Porzingis has a lengthy history of leg injuries and Horford’s age has shown at times this postseason, there isn’t necessarily an easy answer to this situation, but Porzingis is the better play so the’ll likely go back to their original rotation, Porzingis getting 26 minutes per game, and Horford getting around 25. 

Derrick White has been outstanding for Boston this season, and has continued his high level of performance in the playoffs.

White has improved drastically in nearly all offensive categories from the regular season to the playoffs, going from 15.2 points per game to 18.2, 46.1% from the field to 48.5%, 39.6% from three to 43.5%. 

With White’s increase in scoring, his assists per game have naturally decreased, going from 5.2 per game to 3.8. His rebounds per game have also gone down a slight .4 now at 3.8 per game, as a point guard that isn’t drastic and I’m sure Boston fans would rather have the three point shooting. 

In his first year with the Boston Celtics, defensive first shooting guard and 2021 NBA champion Jrue Holiday, has been fantastic for what his role is, a “three and d” player, although the postseason has been different. 

A “three and d” player is exactly as it sounds, guard and shoot threes, although Holiday does facilitate more than other players of the same archetype. 

Holiday’s shooting numbers and scoring have gone down, from 12.5 points per game to 10.4, and from 42.9% from three to 38.6%, and 48% from the field to 44%. These stats are all staggering, however his role is mostly to defend.

 Guys like Tatum, White, and Brown can handle the bulk of the scoring. 

Unfortunately I do not anticipate his scoring output to increase too drastically in the Eastern Conference Finals, as I assume he’ll be guarding All Star point guard Tyrese Halliburton of the Indiana Pacers, and naturally the Celtics will want him to save his energy.

The Celtics backup guard this postseason has primarily been the 26 year old Peyton Pritchard. 

Pritchard isn’t much of a scorer, only putting up 7.8 points per game but has shot a solid 42.9% from three. 

His scoring has gone down from the regular (9.6 points per game) to postseason (7.8), however he has averaged one less shot per game which makes up that difference, his role has been as more of a facilitator to get the main scoring wings good looks. 

One thing that is important for Pritchard is his ability to control the ball. I know that’s the point of a point guard, but he has only 0.9 turnovers per game to 2.5 assists, and has only 1.2 personal fouls per game, limiting the opponent’s possessions is crucial.

Lastly, Boston has Sam Houser who is the bench small forward for the Celtics.

At 6 ‘7 the 26 year old Wisconsin native is used as a lengthy defender on the perimeter, another “three and d” guy, and in after thought this postseason.

Only playing 14.6 points per game in the playoffs in comparison to his 22 in the regular season, he’s had to make the most of every opportunity that he gets, and he has.

Houser avenged 9.0 points per game in the regular season, and just 5.5 now, but that 5.5 has come on 44.1% shooting from three, and 48.8% from the field. 

The Pacers are seemingly a deeper team than the Heat and Cavaliers were so I anticipate Houser getting more minutes to keep players like Tatum and Brown more energized for late game. 

The Celtics are 8-2 in the postseason, and have averaged the sixth most points per game in the playoffs with 108.1, they will certainly have their hands full as the Pacers have the highest scoring offense this postseason with 114.2 points per game.

The Pacers

Boston’s opponent will be the Indiana Pacers, who haven’t made the Eastern Conference Finals since 2014.

The Pacers primarily use an eight man rotation with a reputation as their lineup.

While inexperienced, Haliburton was instrumental in the red hot start of the Pacers this season, which got Indiana to the finals of the inaugural Mid Season Tournament, where they were promptly defeated by the Las Angeles Lakers, 123-109.

Haliburton has been streaky in the postseason to say the least, averaging 18.8 points per game which is lower than his 20.1 per game in the regular season, 10.9 assist in the regular season to 8.1, 3.9 rebounds per game to 5. 

The Ultimate Guide To The 2024 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics VS Pacers

He hasn’t been terrible on average but has had issues scoring at times as seen in game 5 against the Knicks where he scored just 13 points in 34 minutes of work. 

However he did score 35 points in game 3 against New York in 38 minutes, I’m curious if that level of seasawing will continue or not. It is important to point out he still rarely turns the ball over (2.2 TOV per game) despite his high usage.

Siakam has definitely been the guy for them this postseason, averaging a team best 21.1 points per game this run, to go along with 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, which is where he was at in the regular season for all three categories. 

This consistency has come despite his poor three point shooting going from 38.6% in the regular season to 32.4% in the playoffs, however he has averaged less than three attempts per game in both, so in my opinion it is not too consequential. 

Siakam will likely guard Tatum which will not be easy, however he is one of the more elite defensive perimeter players in the league so I’m sure he will do fine, and as mentioned previously Tatum has struggled scoring a bit.

Along with Siakam who was acquired in a mid season trade with the Raptors, and Haliburton, the Pacers have put together a team of dependable scrappy players, center Myles Turner, backup point guard TJ McConnell, guard Andrew Nembhard, small forward Aaron Nesmith, backup shooting guard Ben Sheppard, and bench rim running big, Obi Toppin have all played significant minutes for the Pacers during this run.

Myles Turner has been on the Pacers for 8 seasons and has built a reputation as an elite defensive center, and floor spacer.

Turner has averaged 17.5 points per game this playoff run and 6,5 rebounds per game both of which are around where he was in the regular season, he has averaged an extra assist per game, going from 1.3 to 2.3, and has continued his sharpshooting ways knocking down 45.7% of his threes which is 10% more than the regular season. 

Shooting guard Andrew Nemhard has put up career numbers in this playoff run, averaging more points (13), more rebounds (3.2), and assists (4.8), in the postseason than he did in the regular season.

Nembhard is doing this while playing reliable defense, excelling at picking up opposing guards deep in the half court, preventing the opposition from setting their offense. 

He is also shooting exactly 13% better from three point territory going from 35.7% to 48.7%, as he continues to carve out a solid career as a “three and d” player. 

Aaron Nesmith has dipped in scoring since the start of the postseason, going from 12.2 points per game to 10.5, but drastically decreased his shooting percentages from 41.9% from three to 30. 2%, his effective field goal percentage has dropped significantly as well going from 60.6% to 51.9%, and naturally with those stats, the regular field goal percentages has also dropped from 49.6% to 43%.

Nesmith is still averaging 32.7 minutes per game mostly due to his defensive effort but if he keeps up this negative offensive impact I’m not sure how many minutes he’ll have against Boston.

Backup point guard TJ McConnell has been the spark plug for this Indiana team, anytime he comes in for Haliburton everything just moves more fluidly, which isn’t a knock on Haliburton, more so a testament to the experience and savviness the 8 year NBA veteran McConnell brings, that Haliburton just isn’t experienced enough yet to have.

McConnell isn’t much of a three point shooter, doesn’t get too many rebounds, and isn’t the best defender in the world, but what he does do is try.

That may sound strange but sometimes that’s all it takes, he subs in like a bat out of hell and brings a certain energy to the Pacers.Statistically he isn’t a complete blackhole, he gets an impressive 5.3 assists per game off the bench and 10.8 points while shooting 48.1% from the field.

He’s definitely an eye test guy, and someone I can see Boston struggling with, like the Knicks did.

Like other players mentioned, backup shooting guard Ben Sheppard isn’t going to wow anyone with his stats, but does bring a certain level of tenacity to the game anytime he checks in. He scores about 6 points per game, gets 3 rebounds and an assist per game, but gives 110% effort every second he’s on the court. 

If you like instigators in sports, you’ll love Sheppard.

The last player who gets consistent minutes is back up big man Obi Toppin.

Toppin is a classic power forward, flashy dunks, a few rebounds, and can stretch the floor at times. Watching the former Knick, is like watching a time machine and bringing Larry Johnson or Kenny Walker into 2024.

Toppin averages 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, all better than his regular season stats. Toppin has shot 33.3% from three this season which is much lower than his mark of 40.3% in the regular season, but given his athletic play style it hasn’t impacted much as he still runs to rim for putbacks and alley oops.

Rick Carlisle is the head coach of this Pacers team, and has a ton of postseason experience, having won an NBA Championship in 2011 with Dallas.

On paper the Pacers are less experienced and the Celtics are a juggernaut that practically everyone picked preseason to make it out of the East, but do not forget this Pacers team made it to the midseason tournament finals for a reason. 

They’re well coached, well disciplined, and young but high IQ players, they could make this series closer than people are giving them credit for.

NBA Eastern Conference Finals: The Matchup/ My Prediction

I think Boston is going to cream them, pun very much intended. 

I think the Pacers are going to put up a fight but ultimately the Celtics just have too much talent. 

The Indiana Pacers really lucked out going against the aging, injured Bucks in the first round, and then playing the Knicks without their 4 of their best 6 players for much of the series and even then it went to seven games.

Meanwhile the Boston Celtics are 8-2. 

I think Boston is a team that becomes complacent and takes their opponents too likely at an alarmingly high rate, which may tip the scales in Indiana’s favor, but even then I have more confidence in Boston.

The Celtics won 3 of the 5 matchups these two played against each other this season which is further evidence to justify my pick.

I will point out, if Myles Turner can consistently stretch the floor and get Porzingis who’s coming off a calf injury to move around, or take advantage of the aging Horford, the Pacers may have a real shot, but that is a big if.

Stay tuned for more updates on the NBA Eastern Conference finals via RespectMyRegion.com.

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