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Celtics Host Pacers Seeking 13th Straight Win

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Boston Celtics (21-4) vs. Indiana Pacers (12-13)

Sunday, December 19, 2010


TV: Comcast SportsNet | Radio: WEEI

Location: TD Garden - Boston

UPDATE: Shaquille O'Neal will play today.

Seeking their 13th consecutive victory, the Boston Celtics will square off with the Indiana Pacers today at 1:00pm.

The shorthanded (understatement of the season?) Celtics managed to win their 12th game in a row on Thursday night when they vanquished the Atlanta Hawks, 102-90, behind a balanced offensive effort, particularly from the starting five. Ray Allen scored 18 points, Kevin Garnett added 17 points (and 14 rebounds), and Paul Pierce totaled 15. Glen Davis also contributed another strong effort with 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

The Pacers, meanwhile, haven't won more than two games in a row at any point this season, and are so far just 3-6 in the month of December. Prior to their 108-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, the Pacers had lost three straight games by an average of 16 points per game.

With that said, head coach Jim O'Brien has his club playing hard, as Indiana comes in ranked ninth in the league in defensive efficiency (100.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). Unfortunately, the Pacers do not appear to be as successful on the other side of the ball, as they currently rank 22nd in the NBA in offensive efficiency (100.9 points per 100 possessions), so they could struggle today against Boston, who stands atop the league in defensive efficiency (96.3 points allowed per 100 possessions).

Projected Starters
Celtics: Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Semih Erden
Note: Both Shaquille O'Neal (calf) and Erden (groin) are listed as game-time decisions, so we might very well see Glen Davis starting at center today.
Pacers: Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, and Roy Hibbert
For the Celtics, centers Kendrick Perkins (knee) and Jermaine O'Neal (knee), and guards Delonte West (wrist) and Rajon Rondo (ankle, hamstring, feet) are out. Centers Shaquille O'Neal (calf) and Semih Erden (groin) are listed as game-time decisions. Guard Von Wafer (back) is listed as questionable.
The Pacers are healthy.
Who's Hot
For the Celtics, Kevin Garnett notched his 13th double-double of the season against the Hawks on Thursday night, scoring 17 points on 8-10 shooting, while pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds.
For the Pacers, Danny Granger hit 12 of his 22 shot attempts and scored 30 points against the Cavaliers on Friday.
Who's Not
For the Celtics, Paul Pierce shot just 5-15 from the field against the Hawks on Thursday night.
For the Pacers, Darren Collison scored only five points in 28 minutes of play against the Cavaliers on Friday.
Key Matchup
Paul Pierce vs. Danny Granger
The Pacers have struggled against teams with winning records this season, as they're only 3-8 against such clubs, although they do hold victories over both the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. Indiana has also struggled against the other 14 teams ranked in the top 15 in terms of defensive efficiency, holding a 5-10 mark thus far.
If Shaq and Erden join Jermaine on the bench today, the Celtics will need to find a way to effectively combat Indiana's 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, who's vying for the league's Most Improved Player Award. In just under 30 minutes per game, Hibbert's averaging 14.4 points, 8.2 rebounds (2.5 offensive rebounds), and 2.0 blocks.
Nearly eight of Hibbert's 12 field goal attempts per game are coming either less than 10 feet from the rim (where he's shooting 51 percent) or directly at the rim (where he's shooting 70.7 percent), according to Hoopdata.
Even though Danny Granger's sporting his lowest points per game average (21.1) since the 2007-2008 season, the Celtics still need to be wary of the 6-8 swingman. Despite his lower offensive numbers, he can still very much be the lethal scorer we probably expect him to be, as evidenced his five 30-point games this season.
The Celtics made a point to get Ray Allen going in the second half against the Hawks on Thursday (it worked - he scored 17 of his 18 points after halftime), and they should take a similar approach against Dunleavy from the start today. Run Ray around screen after screen in the hopes of losing Dunleavy and freeing him up for easy shots along the wing or the three-point line. One thing the Celtics do well is having the second big who screens for Ray on the baseline seal his man on the block, so if Ray isn't open for a jumper after curling around that last screen, he's free to dump the ball down to what should be an open big man.
Also, with Josh McRoberts most likely starting today for the Pacers, I'd love to see the Celtics establish Kevin Garnett in the post early in the first quarter. If Shaq does end up playing, the Celtics should take a similar approach here as well, and force Hibbert to play a little bit of defense.
Here's to 13 straight.

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