Boston Celtics (4-6) at Indiana Pacers (8-2)
Game #'s: Regular Season Game #11, Road Game #5
Time: 7:00 PM EST, Saturday, January 14, 2012
Venue: Conseco Field House
Offiicals: Tom Washington, Derrick Collins, Mark Lindsay
TV: CSNNE, FSI, NBA-LP 755/756 Radio: WEEI, WJBC
The Line: The Celtics were 3-1 against the Pacers last year,
but Indiana's won 4 of their last 5, and have already beaten the
Celtics once this year.
Game Thread | Room de Chat
You know, if you would've told me a month ago that today the Celtics and Pacers would play at Conseco Field House, and one of the teams would be 8-2 and one of the teams would be 4-6, I would've been unsurprised. The Celtics have started hot for the last four years, and the Pacers have been a middling fringe playoff team for the last two.
But, its a brave new world, and suddenly the Pacers started out hot and are tied for 2nd in the conference, and the Celtics, through the first ten games at least, are looking every bit the fringe playoff team. Apparently there has been some table-turning action, and I'm not talking about from some friend you used to have in college that pretends he's a DJ on the weekends now who won't stop inviting you to Facebook events that happen a thousand miles away that you'd never go to, even if you lived in Arizona.
And the Pacers are doing it the hard way. They're currently 26th out of 30 in the league for eFG%, which means they're far from lighting it up nightly with hot shooting. They're doing it through tough defense (ranked 3rd), solid rebounding (9th), and solid scoring contributions from the entire rotation (10 guys averaging double digits per contest).
The Celtics meanwhile are suffering where they've typically been brilliant, and that's defense. Their 2nd ranked defense last season has plummeted to 18th in the league, and add that disparity to even worse rebounding than last season (which was already pretty poor) has highlighted some weaknesses they've been able to hide in years past.
The Celtics are on the second night of a back-to-back, against a younger team who has already out-played them once this season. It would be a tough game even with the rest, but without it, there's a chance it could be pretty bad.
But, that's why they play the game. A pretty poor 10 game stretch doesn't always mean a poor season. The Celtics had a stretch in 09-10 where they went 4-8, and the entire league and sports world in general wrote them off as a second-tier team. They went on to the Finals. Maybe, the Pacers are on the upswing. Maybe the Celtics have been playing poorly right now. But, as Indiana has shown us, perceptions can change quickly. I think we'll be content to see how it plays out. I mean, what are we gonna do, not watch?
Oh, what's that? The Pats are playing the Broncos in a playoff match-up with a way sexier storyline and much higher stakes and hour after tip-off?
Well, at least we'll be watching the first half. Oh stop, its just a pregame show. Watch the first half.
Probable Starting Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Darren Collison
Ray Allen vs Paul George
Paul Pierce vs Danny Granger
Kevin Garnett vs David West
Jermaine O'Neal vs Roy Hibbert
Keyon Dooling (knee) out
George Hill (back) day to day
Key Match-Up: Ray Allen V Paul George
The last time these two teams met, Ray Allen was one of the lone bright spots. Paul George was lauded during the playoffs last year and coming into this season not only for his defensive potential, but also for how good he was right now as a defender. Apparently, being 6'10 and a freak athlete with sound defensive instincts just isn't a fair counter to Ray Allen's methodical and unforgiving movement without the ball, or his lightening quick and accurate jumpshot. Allen went off for 23 points and 4-5 from deep against the Pacers last time, and considering his play so far this year there is no reason to think he can't do it again.
Three Keys For The Good Guys
1) 'De Emphasis Should Be On 'De Defense, Especially Down Low: The Pacers are not a very efficient team right now when it comes to scoring. A lot of that rests on Danny Granger's shoulders, as he's shooting less than 35% from the field currently, and he's taking the most shots. David West also has to carry some of that water, as he's down from a career mark of 48% to 43%. The Celtics need to limit West and Granger, but they also need to limit Hibbert, who at 7'2 with a scoring acumen not many centers possess in today's NBA gives the Celtics a matchup that will be darn hard to counter.
2) Paging Paul Pierce. Paging Paul Pierce: I don't know what to say about the Captain right now other than to note that he's starting out pretty slowly. Whether he's injured, or out of shape, or rusty, who is to say (likely a combo poo-poo platter of all three)? But this I know: if the Celtics are ever going to be a top-tier team, that's got to change. Pierce is shooting just 36% from the field, and that's no-bueno when you also consider he's leading the team in FGA's per contest. We need Pierce to regress back to his mean, and tonight is as good a night as any. Actually, last week would've been better, but I'll take tonight.
3) Rajon Rondo, Keep Doin What You're Doin: Quick, name the Celtics' backup point guard. If you said Kenyon Dooling, you'd be wrong. Normally you'd be right, but tonight you'd be wrong. And that matters because without Rondo in there, the Celtics have got nobody who even resembles a traditional point guard. Now Avery Bradley is getting all kinds of love right now, but ponder this, if you will. The last time the C's played the Pacers, they lost by 13 points. Rondo played 40 minutes (well, 39) at the point in that game, and while he was in there, the Celtics were only at a point differential of -2 net on the game. When Rondo was not in there, the Celtics were -11, and that was only for 11 total minutes. And that was when Dooling was active! Rondo's gonna log 40 again tonight, maybe more. In that time, the C's have got to pour it on, because it looks like they're going to take it on the chin when he's not.