INDIANAPOLIS — The first thing Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics wanted to impress upon his teammates in the locker room Friday night following the Game 3 victory against the Indiana Pacers was how difficult Game 4 would be.

For the Celtics, Game 4 will be one of the most difficult things in sports: An opportunity to close out an opponent.

“I told these guys as soon as we got in the locker room that the hardest game of the series is the close-out game, especially on the road,” Irving said after Boston’s 104-96 victory, which propelled them to a 3-0 series lead.

“Obviously, we know what’s at stake. We know the amount of pressure they’re putting on themselves and we know the amount of pressure we’re going to put on ourselves to play great. That’s just the reality of it. You’ve just got to be ready for the runs they throw at us, the intensity, make sure we’re picking up the basketball, being very aggressive. We’ve just got to match it. We’ve got to be able to answer those calls and we’ll be OK.”

Both teams have been relatively respectful so far, to the point that Terry Rozier said the series felt “way different” than last year’s first-round series between the Bucks and Celtics. After a third straight victory in the postseason – and Boston’s sixth consecutive win over Indiana, all of which have come since Victor Oladipo went down for the season – the Pacers were left scratching their heads for answers.

“I think just us in the third quarter, we didn’t get off to a good start this third quarter,” Tyreke Evans said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to get off to a good start and we’ll be good.”

The problem with that reasoning is Indiana has hit rough patches in every game this series. That will happen when your most reliable scorer is Bojan Bogdanovic, a talented spot-up shooter who is being asked to do a little more than his most comfortable role.

If the Celtics can limit Bogdanovic, Indiana simply doesn’t have many answers. In the playoffs, a team’s biggest weakness gets exposed over and over. For the Pacers, the weakness is the lack of scoring – a pretty major problem, particularly against a team that employs Irving.

“I think that throughout this series so far we’ve done a good job answering their runs,” Irving said. “It’s going to be even louder in here. We expect the intensity to raise to another level, and as long as we’re locked in and communicative at both ends of the floor, having some fun, playing hard, we’ll be OK.”

Still, nobody on the Celtics expects the final game to be easy.

“I think they’re going to come out and play hard, and I tip my hat to them,” Jaylen Brown said. “They played hard all three games. We’ve matched their intensity, but in Game 4 we expect them to take it up another level. So we’ve got to come out and not take our foot off the gas, and come out and still play some great basketball, and defend at a high level and try to close this thing out.”

Coach Brad Stevens was asked about his team’s defense, which has been relatively strong through the first three games.

“I hate to pat our defense on the back,” Stevens said. “That’s when you let go of the rope, and I think we just have to keep going at it.”

Suffice to say the Celtics believe in themselves and like their direction headed into Game 4. But they know no victory – and particularly no victory in the playoffs – will come easily.

“We just need to continue to defend the way that we’ve done,” Al Horford said. “Playing at that high level. They’re a team that executes well, they’re really good defensively, too. But for us, we need to continue to defend at this high level like we’ve been able to do.”