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Preview Game 73: Where the Countdown Starts Against The Pacers

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Glen Davis (pictured above) utterly dominates Tyler Hansbrough in a 'Awkward NBA Snapshot Face' competition, proving once against why the Celtics are still the team to beat in the East.
Glen Davis (pictured above) utterly dominates Tyler Hansbrough in a 'Awkward NBA Snapshot Face' competition, proving once against why the Celtics are still the team to beat in the East.

Boston Celtics (51-21, 22-13 away) @ Indiana Pacers (32-42, 19-16 home)
Time: 7:00 PM EST, Monday, March 28th, 2011
Venue: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
Officials: Ed Malloy, Rodney Mott, Haywoode Workman (click to see breakdown)
The Line: Celtics are a half game up on Miami for 2nd in the East, the
Pacers are 1 game up on Charlotte for the 8th seed, and 2 games up on
Milwaukee.The Celtics are 3-0 against Indiana so far this season.

The Countdowninator: 10 Regular Season Thingys Remaining

Game Thread | Chat Room

Start the clock, circle the wagons, call yo momma...the Celtics are officially 10 games away from the playoffs. 10 glorious (quasi) meaningless games until we get into the nitty gritty physical play of the playoffs..when we can finally find out who was right about the Celtics, and who was wrong, and who will be able to delicately get off that fence they've been sitting on! 10 more games, then playoffs, BABY!

That's the good news. I am assuming you wanted that first. The bad news is that the Celtics went for 3 wins and 7 losses over their last 10 games in 2009-2010, and they were much in the same spot last season as are this season (playing for improved seeding, but to be fair the Celtics couldn't even see the #1 seed last season, while we're only 2 games back from Chicago right now).

Tonight's game ought to be a good test, too. We face Indiana for the second time in the month of March and there are pretty good cases for why the game could go either way. The pessimists will say that Indiana will be much more motivated to take this game home, as while we're fighting for better seeding and home court advantage, Indiana is fighting for their playoff lives. A loss tonight for Indiana and a win tonight for Charlotte puts them in a tie for the 8th overall seed, a seed Indiana has held on to pretty tightly for the last 2 or 3 months.

However, optimists (an increasingly endangered species, to be sure sure) will point out that Indiana is in a bit of a free-fall since the beginning of March, going for six wins and ten losses, including their last two games, both against non-playoff teams. If Boston has been 'bad' lately, going 10-7 since 'the trade', than Indiana has been downright hideous since March 1st.

Fencepost Sittah's like myself will only come to one single conclusion though; if Boston can manage to play up to ability for an entire half (an entire game is likely out of realm of possibility, especially in back to backs), Indiana shouldn't have a prayer. But, it is like the unstoppable force meeting the immoveable object; Will Boston's 'soft' and 'selfish' play set them down a path of self-destruction, or will Indiana's mental weakness and seemingly unending mediocrity doom them to a third straight loss?

I guess, as they say, that's why you play the game.

Matchup Of The Night: Kevin Garnett V Tyler Hansbrough

In 4 of the Pacers' last 5 wins, Tyler 'Psycho T' Hansbrough has scored 20 points per game or more. I don't know if it is March Madness (I mean like a bi-polar thing, not some basketball tournament) or what but in the month of March since becoming the official starter, Hansbrough has averaged over 18 ppg, and that number has been bolstered considerably by a few standout performances, mostly in wins.

The last time the Celtics beat the Pacers, KG held a then-scorching (he had just scored 20ppg or better in the last 5 previous games) Hansbrough to 10 points and 28% shooting performance over 36 total minutes. If the Celtics want to land consecutive wins tonight, they're going to need something similar from KG and Glen Davis.

Three Keys To The Game For The Good Guys

1) Play The Entire 48 Minutes- The Celtics collapse against Charlotte friday, and drop the game. They collapse against Minnesota last night, and nearly lose the game. The Celtics might as well procure a Lifecall necklace for all the times they've managed to stumble and fall down during the end stretch of games. Luckily, Sunday, they managed to get back up...but they won't do it everytime. They need 48 minutes of complete, motivated play, and the last time they managed that was guessed it...Indiana.

2) Hit Those Jumpers, Or Go To The Painted Area More..But Choose One! Or Both! AH! JUST SCORE THE BALL!!!- I'm not going to sugarcoat it...the Celtics are weak on offense. They're about as offensive as Wayne Brady. They score about as often as Corey from Boy Meets World. They need to be more Shawn, less Corey.

What's that? You want one more obscure pop reference? The Celtics' offense is sputtering worse than King George The Sixth in that movie I'll never see. There are more theories on why this is than there are thoughts on who shot JFK, but in the end its gotta come down to execution. The Celtics need to hit their shots when they're open, and execute and move the ball to get better looks when they're not.

3) Smart Beats Athletic When Athletic Gets Frustrated- How do you beat a young athletic team? You're not faster, you're not able to jump higher or dunk better. The Celtics need to stick to their gameplan and work smart as well as hard. The Pacers, as we saw last time, can get frustrated early, and virutally take themselves out of the game. Danny Granger hit a wall somewhere in the third quarter the last time the two teams played, and you could see it in his eyes that he didn't care anymore. The Celtics need to crush the Pacers mentally, because if it turns into a footrace, the Celtics will lose.

Probable starting lineups, injury reports, and team connections courtesy of CelticsBlog Superhero, FLCeltsFan

Probable Starting Matchups
Delonte West vs Darren Collison

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen vs Paul George

Small Forward
Paul Pierce vs Danny Granger

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett vs Tyler Hansbrough

Nenad Krstic vs Roy Hibbert

Celtics Reserves
Glen Davis
Jeff Green
Sasha Pavlovic
Avery Bradley
Carlos Arroyo

Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles) out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) day to day
Troy Murphy (ankle) day to day
Von Wafer (calf) day to day
Rajon Rondo (pinky) questionable

Pacers Reserves
Brandon Rush
Solomon Jones
James Posey
Dahntay Jones
TJ Ford
Jeff Foster
AJ Price
Lance Stephenson
Josh McRoberts

Mike Dunleavy (thumb) out

Team Connections
Avery Bradley and T.J. Ford both attended the University of Texas
James Posey played for the Celtics during the 2007-08 season and was a member of the 2008 Championship team
A.J. Price and Rajon Rondo both attended the University of Kentucky
Brandon Rush and Paul Pierce both attended the University of Kansas
Shaquille O’Neal and James Posey were teammates in Miami from 2005-07
Jermaine O’Neal played for the Pacers from 2000-08
Pacers Assistant Coaches Walter McCarty (1997-2005) and Vitaly Potapenko (1998-2002) both played previously for the Celtics
Pacers coach Frank Vogel was an assistant coach under Jim O’Brien with the Celtics from 2001-04
Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird won three championships with the Celtics and had his #33 retired on 2/4/93