INDIANAPOLIS • For now, the Boston Celtics, after a methodical sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the play-offs, are reflecting the team that many pre-season observers thought would waltz their way to the National Basketball Association Finals.
This was the Celtics' first sweep since 2011 after they beat the hosts 110-106 in Game 4 on Sunday.
Indiana, for whom forward Bojan Bogdanovic led all scorers with 22 points, were missing their best player, the flashy All-Star swingman Victor Oladipo who suffered a season-ending injury in January.
But, even with him, they cannot match the top-shelf depth of Boston, which Indiana coach Nate McMillan admitted was "deep" .
While the Celtics were not quite dominant throughout, the series was rarely in doubt as the fourth seeds advanced to a match-up with either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Detroit Pistons.
Top seeds Bucks have a 3-0 lead over Detroit and can complete a sweep of their own today for a first post-season series win since 2001.
Gordon Hayward paced Boston with 20 points and the forward declared they were on a high as "any time you win 4-0 a team, you feel great". He added: "It was a scrappy, defensive, physical series. Proud of our team for fighting. "
Seven Boston players reached double figures in scoring on the night, which bodes well for the imminent clash with the Bucks who have the league's best defence.
Hayward, who has struggled in his second year after missing his debut season with a fractured ankle, is also looking like the All-Star they were hoping for when they signed him from the Utah Jazz.
After posting true shooting percentages (a measure of efficiency that includes free throws) of 64.4, 62.3, and 76.2 per cent from February to this month, he is looking the best he has looked in the famed green uniform.
The 29-year-old said: "Physically, I feel way better now than I did at the beginning of the season. More than anything, though, just getting a chance to play with these guys and start to figure out strengths."
Three other teams made it 3-1 and are one win away from reaching the conference semi-finals after success on the road.
In the West, Kevin Durant scored 33 points as two-time defending champions Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 113-105. The Portland Trail Blazers overcame Oklahoma City Thunder 111-98 to snap an eight-game road play-off losing streak.
In the East, Kawhi Leonard had 34 points to help the Toronto Raptors beat the Orlando Magic 107-85.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES