After one game at home, the Celtics head back out on the road to take on the Indiana Pacers in the first of 4 meetings this season. They will meet again on December 18 in Indiana and twice in Boston on February 9 and March 11. The Celtics won the series 3-0 last season.
Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics played at home against the Magic in an easy win with the starters sitting out the 4th quarter. The Pacers played at home vs the Raptors and won a close game 107-104 with 3 of their starters playing 36+ minutes. The Celtics are 1-1 on the second night of back to back games while the Pacers are 2-3 in the second of back to back games.
Like the Celtics, the Pacers are a much different team than they were last season. Their star, Paul George is gone and has been replaced by Victor Oladipo. After a slow start, they are coming together and playing well and are on a 5 game win streak. They are 5-3 at home. The Celtics are 9-2 on the road.
Marcus Morris has been dealing with a sore knee once again and is not expected to travel with the team to Indiana. I've guessed that Aron Baynes will return to the starting lineup if Morris is out. Jaylen Brown will be attending his friend's funeral during the day and plans to make it back in time to play but it's possible that he may not. If Brown doesn't make it to Indiana in time to play, I expect Marcus Smart to get the start in his place. Shane Larkin is a game time decision with a neck injury.
I've listed the Pacers' starters from their game notes. Glenn Robinson is out with an ankle injury. Victor Oladipo left the game Friday night with a knee bruise midway through the 4th quarter and is expected to miss this game. I'm going to guess that Lance Stephenson will get the start in his place.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Jaylen Brown (personal) game time decision
Marcus Morris (knee) out
Shane Larkin (neck) game time decision
Two Way Players
Probable Pacers Starters
Glenn Robinson (ankle) out
Ike Anigbogu (G-League assignment) out
Victor Oladipo (knee) out
Two Way Players
Jaylen Brown vs Lance Stephenson
With Oladipo expected to miss this game with a bruised bone, I'm guessing that Lance Stephenson will get the start in his place. As of now, Jaylen Brown is still hoping to make it for the game. Stephenson is averaging 6.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists but in last night's win over the Raptors, Stephenson took over after Oladipo left the game. He connected on 6 of his final 7 field goals including back to back 3 pointers. He finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds.
Jayson Tatum vs Bojan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic is averaging 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He is shooting 51.7% from the field and 46.4% from beyond the arc. Tatum needs to stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Kyrie Irving vs Darren Collison
Collison is averaging 12.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.1 steals. He is shooting 49.1% from the field and 38.5% on 3 pointers. Kyrie needs to have a big game on the offensive end as well as slowing Collison down on the defensive end.
Keys to the Game
Rebound - The Celtics must box out and crash the boards. They can't score without the ball and it will take extra effort on their part to grab the rebounds. The Celtics have been rebounding very well but allowed the Heat to out-rebound them and it resulted in a loss. They need to rebound as a team and keep the Pacers off the boards.
Be Aggressive - I already mentioned that the Celtics must be aggressive on the boards, but they also must be aggressive on defense, in going after loose balls, and just all around going all out. They have to aggressively attack the basket. They need to start the game with that aggressive attitude and be aggressive through the whole game with no let up. They can't let the Pacers be the team that works harder.
Play Defense - Defense wins games. The Pacers are the best 3 point shooting team in the league, shooting 40.4% from beyond the arc and so the Celtics have to close out on their outside shooters. They also must play better defense in the paint as they have been allowing too many easy shots in recent games. The Celtics have to make playing tough defense a priority.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. Against the Magic, the ball movement was great and it resulted in an easy win. However, the Pacers are 11th in the league with 18.2 points per game off turnovers and so the Celtics must focus on making good passes and be aware of the Pacers ability to close out the passing lanes. If the Celtics get careless, the Pacers will make them pay.
On the Road - The Celtics are back on the road and are once again playing in a hostile environment. The players have to focus on the game and block out all the distractions that come with playing on the road.
Who's Playing? - The Celtics may be down 2 starters for this game. Marcus Morris is still dealing with soreness in his knee and he didn't travel with the team to Indiana. Jaylen Brown will be at the funeral of his best friend during the day and it isn't certain if he can make it back in time for the game. He is a game time decision. For the Pacers, their top scorer, Victor Oladipo left Friday's game midway through the 4th quarter with a knee bruise and is expected to miss this game. A team missing key players could either come together and play better or struggle to make up for that player's contributions.
Fatigue - Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games but the Celtics had to travel overnight. The Celtics are on the road while the Pacers are home. No Celtic played more than 27 miniutes in their easy win over the Magic. On the other hand, the Pacers' game against the Raptors went down to the buzzer with 3 starters playing over 36 minutes. Fatigue may be a factor and whichever team handles it better will get the win.