Celtics vs. Pacers prediction, odds, schedule for 2024 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals

The stage is set for the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics rolled through the second round, taking down the Cavaliers in five games. They were awaiting the winner of a grueling Pacers-Knicks series that went the distance, and Indiana prevailed on the road at Madison Square Garden in Game 7 to keep its season alive.

Boston will benefit from a few extra days of rest, giving All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis more time to recover from a calf strain
. Porzinigis has been sidelined since Game 4 of the Celtics’ first-round series against the Heat. He is still expected to miss Games 1 and 2, but “there is optimism for a return,” per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Pacers will travel straight to Boston, only getting one day off between games before the Eastern Conference Finals gets underway.

Can Indiana pull off an upset or will the Celtics continue to roll through the East? The Sporting News breaks down the matchup below.

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Celtics vs. Pacers prediction

The Celtics have looked lackadaisical at times, but that hasn’t stopped them from compiling a playoff-best 8-2 record. They also have the highest net rating (12.8), the highest average margin of victory (11.4) and the best point differential (+114).

With one win by 30 points, two wins by at least 20 points and two wins by at least 10 points, Boston has handled its competition. It will face its toughest test yet in the Eastern Conference Finals, though.

Playing a Jimmy Butler-less Heat and a Donovan Mitchell-less Cavaliers is completely different than a full-strength, fast-paced Pacers team.

Tyrese Haliburton will be the focal point of this series. He hasn’t had the same offensive juice he had during the regular season, only averaging 18.3 points and 8.3 assists in the playoffs. He’ll be hounded by Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, but he has to remain aggressive despite that if the Pacers are going to have a chance.

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Even so, Boston still appears to be on a runaway train to the NBA Finals.

Tatum led the Celtics in total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in their last series. He joined LeBron James as the only players to achieve that feat in the last 40 years. He’s just getting started in this postseason, and he’s had plenty of help along the way already with scoring outbursts from White and Jaylen Brown.

Porzingis’ availability will be a major factor in how many games this series lasts. If he can return after the first two games, Boston could win in five games. With the looming uncertainty around his health, it feels safer to say Celtics in six.

Prediction: Celtics in six

Celtics vs. Pacers betting odds

The Celtics (-1000) open the series as favorites over the Pacers (+650), per NBA odds courtesy of BetMGM.

  • Celtics 4-0: +250
  • Celtics 4-1: +165
  • Celtics 4-2: +450
  • Celtics 4-3: +550
  • Pacers 4-0: +10000
  • Pacers 4-1: +4000
  • Pacers 4-2: +1600
  • Pacers 4-3: +2500

Celtics vs. Pacers regular season series

The Celtics and Pacers are very familiar with each other, facing off five times during the regular season. The second meeting was the first round of the In-Season Tournament playoffs.

Boston won the season series against Indiana, 3-2.

  • Nov. 1, 2023: Celtics 155, Pacers 104
  • Dec. 4, 2023: Pacers 122, Celtics 112 (In-Season Tournament)
  • Jan. 6, 2024: Celtics 118, Pacers 101
  • Jan. 8, 2024: Pacers 133, Celtics 131
  • Jan. 30, 2024: Celtics 129, Pacers 124

The Celtics hung 155 points on the Pacers in their first meeting, the second-most points in a single game in Boston franchise history.

Indiana got revenge in the first round of the In-Season Tournament playoffs, bouncing the Celtics behind 26 points, 13 assists and zero turnovers from Haliburton.

Tatum (38 points) and Brown (31) combined for 69 points to lead Boston to a win in its third meeting with the Pacers. Indiana pulled off a controversial two-point win over the Celtics in the final seconds two days later, but Boston was without Tatum.

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The Celtics sealed the season series in their fifth meeting behind another 30-point game from Tatum.

Celtics vs. Pacers key storyline: Can Indiana’s defense hold up against Boston?

We know the Pacers can run up the score with any team in the league. Their 120.1 offensive rating is the highest in the 2024 NBA Playoffs. They play fast with Haliburton pushing the pace in transition, looking to get teams to make mistakes and force bad shots trying to match their speed.

The Celtics don’t prefer to play fast, but they can. With four reliable ball-handlers on the floor at all times, Boston can exploit mismatches in transition. It is a matchup nightmare in the halfcourt for the same reason, often having five floor-spacing shooters on the court. The Celtics’ 14.5 3-pointers per game lead all playoff teams, and their 37.7 percent conversion rate is the best among teams still alive.

Boston has the second-best offensive rating (118.9) in the playoffs, capable of meeting Indiana’s biggest strength. So if the Pacers can’t exploit their offensive advantage, can their defense hold up against the Celtics’ high-powered scorers?

Indiana’s defense has been an issue all season. The Celtics averaged 129 points per game against the Pacers in five regular-season meetings, highlighted by their 155-point outing back in November.

Head coach Rick Carlisle faces a much different challenge than he did in the Knicks series. Instead of trying to stop one heliocentric offensive force, Indiana now has to contain two prolific-scoring wings in Tatum and Brown.

Aaron Nesmith and Pascal Siakam will likely draw those assignments as their two best perimeter defenders with size, but the rest of the team will have their hands full trying to stop Boston’s other scorers.

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Also, Myles Turner won’t be able to park himself in the paint and protect the rim like he did against New York’s non-shooting centers. Al Horford and, if he gets healthy, Porzingis will pull Turner’s defensive presence away from the basket.

That will give the Celtics’ slashers a runway to the rim without Indiana’s safety blanket sitting in the paint at all times.

There is no question the Pacers can keep up offensively, but can they get enough stops to beat Boston four times?

Celtics vs. Pacers schedule

Date Game Time (ET) TV channel
May 21 Game 1 at Celtics 8 p.m. ESPN, Sling
May 23 Game 2 at Celtics 8 p.m. ESPN, Sling
May 25 Game 3 at Pacers 8:30 p.m. ESPN, Sling
May 27 Game 4 at Pacers 8 p.m. ESPN, Sling
May 29 Game 5 at Celtics* 8 p.m. ESPN, Sling
May 31 Game 6 at Pacers* 8 p.m. ESPN, Sling
June 2 Game 7 at Celtics* 8 p.m. ESPN, Sling

* If necessary

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