INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Kyrie Irving added 19 to help the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 104-96 on Friday night for a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.
The Celtics can close out the Eastern Conference series Sunday in Indianapolis.
Irving also had 10 assists and five rebounds.
Tyreke Evans matched his career playoff high with 19 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic had 15, not enough to prevent Indiana from losing its sixth straight to Boston in the regular season and playoff.
Indiana desperately needed a win to avoid facing its second sweep in three years, but Boston started fast and closed it with a 10-4 spurt late in the fourth quarter.
And once again, Boston’s defense turned the game by allowing just 12 points in the third quarter.
It’s been that kind of series for Indiana, which erased a 15-point first half deficit to take a 61-59 halftime lead. Myles Turner opened the third with a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game.
But Boston charged back with eight straight points to retake the lead, closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to make it 80-73 and pulled away late.
The Celtics took control quickly by going 8 of 10 on 3s in the first quarter to build a 37-22 lead.
Evans finally got the Pacers righted with 12 second-quarter points including bookend 3s to start and finish the 17-3 spurt that allowed Indiana to tie it at 52. The Pacers closed the half on a 9-2 run to take the lead.
Celtics: Jayson Tatum had 18 points and seven rebounds. Al Horford finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. ... The Celtics wound up 15 of 34 on 3s after making 11 of 17 in the first half. ... Boston scored 41 points in the first quarter, breaking the Pacers’ NBA franchise playoff record for points allowed in the first. The Lakers set the previous mark, 38, during the 2000 NBA Finals. ... Boston gave up eight points in the third quarter of Game 1 and 12 in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
Pacers: Domantas Sabonis had 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Thaddeus Young had 11 points and nine rebounds. ... Myles Turner scored 13 points, matching his total from the first two games of the series. ... Indiana wound up 11 of 30 on 3s after starting 8 of 15 and committed no turnovers in the second quarter. ... Travel delays prevented All-Star guard Victor Oladipo from appearing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the first time since suffering a season-ending injury to his right knee in January.
Game 4 is Sunday in Indianapolis.